The networking industry is in the midst of a profound shift. This transformation is being driven by the move from hardware to software, the rise of programmable networks, the rise of open source software as a platform, and a potentially game-changing technology called intent-based networking.
Rethinking the Network
At the recently concluded future:net 2017, hosted by VMware, a common theme that surfaced is the need for networking professionals to act like hardware and software engineers, to become more vendor-agnostic and intent-focused in their networking strategies.
Programmable networking technologies, such as software-defined networking (SDN) and the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), are gaining traction and changing the networking industry in significant ways.
Network functionality is moving into software that is independent of its underlying hardware device. Open source software is helping to drive that movement by increasingly becoming a source of innovation in application development. But shifting from a hardware-dependent to a software-enabled network presents both challenges and opportunities.
The consensus at future:net was that the network has the potential to become a compatibility layer that bridges different generations of technology.
One of the latest developments to emerge in the industry is a technology called intent-based networking—software that can be used to plan, implement, and help operate networks. It is essentially programming and automating the network to improve its own agility and availability.
“Tell the network operating system your intent,” says David Cheriton, founder and chief scientist at Apstra, “and let it figure out how to deliver it, including all the vendor-specific details.”
Intent-based networking addresses one of the most challenging issues in networking today: the gap between a program’s purpose and its eventual execution. It has been a problem that is almost directly the result of a high percentage of manual processes still prevalent in modern day enterprise networks.
Manual processes are both error prone and labor intensive. And there is no way to validate in real time, or near real time, that the intent of the programmer is, in fact, being carried out.
Intent-based networking automates all of these manual processes—monitoring the intent and significantly lowering the likelihood of error while improving networking speed and efficiencies. At future:net 2017, it was a standout technology with the potential to profoundly shape the future of networking.
Read more about intent-based networking from MIT Technology Review, and explore the infographic below to learn more about how automation will affect the future of networking.