Is Intent-Based Networking the Way of the Future?

Network management has always been complex and resource-intensive. Although network management tools are improving, many tasks still require manual intervention by highly trained personnel. Human error is a huge risk — in a recent Uptime Institute survey, 60 percent of respondents said that downtime incidents could be avoided with better management processes.

The stakes have never been higher. With the rise of remote work models, network administrators must ensure that users have instant access to IT resources from any location. At the same time, pandemic-related lockdowns and social distancing requirements have limited the ability of IT teams to physically access network equipment. Network automation and remote management tools have become essential to effective operations.

At the same time, changing business requirements, including increased reliance on cloud-based applications and services, demand a more agile and responsive network. IT teams need the ability to rapidly turn up new locations and services and automatically push out configuration changes across the environment. Intent-based networking has been touted as the answer to these challenges.

What Is Intent-Based Networking?

Gartner defines intent-based networking as “software that helps to plan, design and implement/operate networks that can improve network availability and agility.” Instead of configuring devices, an administrator uses a conversational or graphical interface to establish intent — the business goal to be achieved or the task to be completed. The intent-based network then uses machine learning to achieve the intended objective.

An intent-based networking system has four primary characteristics:

  • Translation and Validation. User input is translated into a higher-level business policy that drives the network design. Software then validates the request to ensure it’s feasible and sends recommended configurations to the network administrator for approval.
  • Automated Implementation. No manual intervention is required for implementation. All new configurations are automatically performed and applied across all network infrastructure.
  • Awareness of Network State. Intent-based networking software monitors the network in real time. It is both protocol- and transport-neutral.
  • Assurance and Dynamic Optimization/Remediation. Continuous validation ensures that the specified intent is being met. If not, corrective actions are automatically applied.

Similar to software-defined networking (SDN), intent-based networking is driven by software, not hardware, and eliminates the need for manual device configurations. But unlike SDN, which emphasizes control of the network, intent-based networking emphasizes alignment with business objectives.

Benefits of Internet-Based Networking

The primary objective of intent-based networking is to minimize manual administrative tasks such as provisioning services, changing configurations and implementing security controls. By doing so, intent-based networking reduces the risk of human error and aids in pinpointing the root cause of network issues.

Intent-based networking also removes educated guesses from network design, using algorithms to derive and verify designs and thereby improve network agility and availability. Machine learning enables an intent-based networking system to quickly identify and fix network faults and configuration errors that get in the way of business objectives.

One Gartner executive has called intent-based networking “the next big thing on the networking horizon.” Bold predictions aside, IT managers should be exploring these solutions as they develop their networking strategies for 2021 and beyond. Technologent’s networking experts are here to assist you. Let us help you determine if intent-based networking has the potential to transform your network infrastructure.

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