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< BACK TO TOPICSHow Can I Trust the Network to Correctly Implement My Intent?

Intent-based Networking Systems (IBNS) may be the latest Gartner industry buzzword, but it captures something real that virtualization, SDN, and overlays have long sought: empowering network teams to operate more productively, at a higher level of abstraction. In this talk, I’ll show how fast, accurate, and scalable network modeling is not just a way to improve efficiency and uptime, but helps transition to, and fully realize, intent-based networking that is on the horizon. First, I’ll motivate what network modeling is and what people use it for, with use cases that benefit network operations teams, including application connectivity troubleshooting, auditing, change window verification, and others.  I’ll then spend the majority of time discussing practical challenges that arise when building a comprehensive network modeling platform that enables search, verification, and prediction at interactive speeds.

(1) The most basic challenge is establishing the intent of existing devices, in a world of massive heterogeneity, across vendors and device types.  In some cases, the same configuration from the same vendor yields different behavior across different versions!  How do you build accurate models without building an army of network jockeys?  

(2) A second challenge is making analysis work at scale, especially in networks with 1000s of physical nodes, stateful packet transformations, internet-scale tables, incomplete neighbor discovery, and wacky firewall rules.  The disk, memory, and compute tradeoffs are often not what you’d expect, and off-the-shelf processing and querying options are often not the right fit for network data.

(3) The third challenge is one that may not have an obvious answer: presenting data in understandable ways, especially when modeling traffic aggregates, within and across data centers, and covers layer 1 through 4, not just IP pairs at IP level – and providing users with easy ways to describe their intent.

At the end, I’ll describe work with customers to leverage network modeling today.  On one side of the spectrum, modeling is helping identify errors before they manifest in a traditional network that has grown organically over a decade.  On the more leading-edge side of the spectrum, a customer used APIs to help build a fully verified intent-based network, one where the intent is guaranteed to match the implementation, before the first packet is even sent, and before any link fails the first time.
Brandon Heller
Co-Founder and CTO at Forward Networks
Brandon Heller received his PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University in June 2013. Involved in OpenFlow before it had that name, he served as main editor of the OpenFlow spec for three years.   His academic projects included energy-efficient data centers (ElasticTree) and flexible network emulation (Mininet).  As CTO at Forward Networks, he does whatever he can to help bring the world's best network modeling to to the world's network operators.


Event: future:net

Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

When: August 30 - 31, 2017

Venue: Four Seasons Hotel