Intent Based Networking (IBN)

This blog is in continuation of my previous blog where I discussed the Business requirement of Enterprise Network Architecture. Refer to mentioned hyperlink for details. Before I start with Cisco DNA, Let’s understand Intent Based Networking.

So what’s Intent Based Networking (IBN) mean? I am sure everyone agrees with me:- this is the latest buzz word in the market we have heard from last one year. So, do you think? It is something new? – Well, if you ask me; Yes it is a new buzz word, but the concept has been there with us from the last two decades.

Then, the next question comes – What is it?

SDN framework considered for the definition of Intent-Based Networking (IBN). It begins with the expression of Business Intent. So, what is business Intent?

  • This application is very critical to my business & should be up 100%.
  • Only specific group of users can access these applications and services.
  • If one of the device is infected; It must be quarantined.

Business Intent explains only “what” you want; not how you want, e.g., placing an order of phone using an online shopping portal. In this case, you intend to get the phone; But, How this phone get delivered to you? Which retailers used to procure this phone? It does not matter at all. This decision is up to the Shopping portal.

Therefore Intent Based Networking help us to deliver this Business Intent by expressing them over Network. Below picture depicts “Behind The Scene” involved in an IBN system.

In Translation phase, the input is Business Intent which defines “what.”

In the Validation phase, IBN system validates the Business Intent to make sure It is possible & network device configuration gets generated for network devices which explains “How.”

This business intent needs to be expressed across the network; therefore this configuration must be pushed on to hundreds, or thousands of network devices such that these deployments are error-prone. Hence, it needs an Automation/Orchestration which allows a network operator to treat thousands of network devices as a single software-enabled, programmable entity.

This network state must be analyzed and provides assurance which tells us if the intent was delivered; if not, remediation action should be taken.

Additionally, IBN system should be continually self-learning, so that it can understand

  • What is normal versus abnormal?
  • What are the most common root causes of issues?
  • What are the most effective remedial actions for a given issue?

With these capabilities of IBN, such a system becomes not only smarter, but also more reliable, available, and adaptable to ever-evolving business requirements.

If you take a look at last 15 years, IT vendors have promised dynamic, self-configuring/self-optimizing infrastructures but for most enterprises, this promise remains largely unfulfilled. That’s why I said earlier, concepts of IBN has been around us with two decades.

Hence, IBN system is changing the way networking was supposed to happen in the past. It enables network managers and engineers to deal with the network less concerning port-by-port and device-by-device configurations and more in terms of the desired outcome at a higher level.

So, Are you ready for Intent Based Networking? – Understanding that IBN system benefits Enterprise organization to a great extent; we should also keep in mind the implication of it to your IT Staff.

  • Considering the new technology; it can take some of your IT staff out of their comfort zone.
  • Evolution of automation in networking is already given bitter experience to network engineers.

Cisco DNA is an IBN system which promises to fulfill all of the mentioned above.

In my next blog, we will take a close look at the mapping of the business requirement mentioned in the previous blog via IBN systems such as Cisco DNA.

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