Intent Based Networking , Is it the next big thing ?

Nowadays there are some technologies which every vendor talk about. SD-WAN is very hot topic but another one is Intent Based Networking. 



There is always ‘ next big thing ‘ in networking. You might hear different terms , such as Self Driven Networking , Intent Driven Networking , Intent Based networking. Indeed, all are the same, but different vendors use different words.


I will explain the basics idea behind Intent Based Networking and will provide an information on current status of it. I will use IBN (Intent Based Networking) keyword throughout the post.


IBN has received a lot of attention since mid of 2017, as one of the incumbent networking vendors published their Intent based networking plan.


IBN means, a system in which the network operator describes what the network should do and the system automatically configures/deploys what’s needed to carry out that intent, or policy.


Intent Based models declare “what” to do but not “how” to do it. Network operators don’t deal with the configuration details.


For example, a network operator may want to create any to any Layer 2 VPN service.  They do not describe route-targets, route-distinguishers, BGP address-families , IGP , LDP etc. Rather they declare that,  any to any Layer 2 connectivity service should be created between the service end points.


IBN is not a product, or a market. Instead, it is a piece of networking software that helps to design, implement, verify and operate networks

The goal is to improve network availability and agility.


According to Gartner, Intent based networking is another way to describe it would be lifecycle management software for networking infrastructure. They also define four key elements of intent based networking :


  1. Translation and Validation– The system takes a higher-level business policy (what) as input from end users and converts it to the necessary network configuration (how). The system then generates and validates the resulting design and configuration for correctness.
  2. Automated Implementation – The system can configure the appropriate network changes (how) across existing network infrastructure. This is typically done via network automation and/or network orchestration.
  3. Awareness of Network State – The system ingests real-time network status for systems under its administrative control, and is protocol- and transport-agnostic.
  4. Assurance and Dynamic Optimization/Remediation– The system continuously validates (in real time) that the original business intent of the system is being met, and can take corrective actions (such as blocking traffic, modifying network capacity or notifying) when desired intent is not met.



Let me give another analogy to clarify what is IBN.


I ask my wife to make a pizza for me, not necessarly how to do it. If She knows she will cook it for me.


This might be the problem of Intent Based Networking. If I ask my wife, make me a Spaghetti and if She doesn’t know how to do it , I will not be able to eat a Spaghetti. Of course She can learn, but there will be an effort for learning.


For the IBN vendors, if they don’t know how to deploy the services which you require on your network, they have to spend so much engineering hours to inject it to their solution too.


So, in the beginning, you will be limited to what they offer. If they get so many requests from the clients for any specific feature/capability, they will deploy first.


I attended last Network Field Day event on November 7 to 9, NFD19 and watch the presentation of Intent Based Networking company called Apstra.




Network Field Day 19  Delegates




First presentation of Apstra started with Carly’s company overview. She introduced their Intent Engine , AOS (Apstra Operating System) which is mainly for Datacenter networks.


AOS uses intent statements to automate design and deployment of configurations across multi vendor networks. According to them, working on Multi vendor environment is their key differentiator.


Apstra last year launched 2.1 and they came out with IBA (Intent Based Analytics).This June, company launched version 2.2 with namely multivendor EVPN and I talked to the company today, they said they will have another release very very soon.


IBA is designed to enable customers to verify their networks are operating as they intended and quickly detect problems to avoid outages, to reduce troubleshooting time.


This helps to reduce Mean Time to Repair thus increases High Availability of the network.


If there is a mismatch between the actual state and the intended state, IBN engine can alerts the user (network operator) and can take an action to fix it.


One of my friends, Jeff Tantsura,  recently joined to Apstra team as Head of Networking Strategy and after that, Honesty, Apstra got my attention.


But after their two hours session and excellent whiteboard presentation from Carly (Presenter in the below picture), I was comparing their solutions with the other IBN vendor solutions, which I will go through in another post, and I should say that I am impressed how much efforts they have done.




Carly Stoughton Presents Apstra Operating System – Intent based networking solution 




I suggest you would start looking; Intent Based Networking , Networking Telemetry , Verification Tools and Machine Learning Topics and stay tuned for my future posts on these topics.



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