Intent-based networking (IBN) is an emerging technology concept that aims to apply a deeper level of intelligence and intended state insights to networking. Ideally, these insights replace the manual processes of configuring networks and reacting to network issues. Simply put, administrators can send a request to tell the network what outcome they want (their intent) instead of needing to code and execute individual tasks manually.
Intent-based networking companies range from start-ups to established networking vendors and all offer slightly different options. But the goal is networking that uses machine learning and cognitive computing to enable more automation and less time spent on manual configuration and management. They provide software that can translate intent to network configuration. With intent-based networking, network administrators define an outcome or business objective—the intent—and the network’s software figures out how to achieve that goal, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Intent-based networking systems not only automate time-consuming tasks and provide real-time visibility into a network’s activity to validate a given intent, they also predict potential deviations to that intent, and prescribe the action required to ensure that intent. This greater intelligence makes the network faster and more agile and reduces errors. This ability to self monitor and self correct is a core component of intent-based networking.
Intent-based networking relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning to prescribe and perform routine tasks, set policies, respond to system events, and verify that goals and actions have been achieved. For example, it can make servers reachable from specific networks, if that is what’s required to achieve a given intent. The system not only configures network changes but also verifies that they are being performed, and it can make adjustments as necessary. Considered an evolution of software-defined networking (SDN), intent-based networking builds upon that technology to enable a higher level of intelligence that can define what tasks are to be automated.
When considering intent-based networking versus SDN, it’s helpful to think of intent-based networking as a form of software-defined networking with additional capabilities. Software-defined networking is a way to manage a network infrastructure using software, with a single pane of glass dashboard. It enables the automation of several different time-consuming processes, including configuring and scaling a network. It also allows a network administrator to easily and quickly configure and reconfigure the network based on the need to support a specific application or task. It gives network administrators an overview of the entire network and how the different network elements are interoperating to enhance or detract from network performance.
Intent-based networking takes software-defined networking one step further. It allows a network administrator to configure a network to address and support a business case, not just an individual task. If the administrator knows what they want the network to accomplish, the intent-based network can figure out how to accomplish it while adhering to previously deployed policies. An intent-based network also continuously performs self-checks as the network changes, ensuring that the network is continuing to operate as expected. If a fix is needed, the network can suggest changes for the operator to choose from and approve.
Intent-based networking has some clear advantages over regular networking and even over software-defined networking. Most of these advantages translate to a significant time savings:
Network Functions Virtualization