By Troy Sempsrott, Director of Architecture/Networking & Collaboration

In traditional network administration, an administrator manually configures each device (switches, routers, firewalls, etc.) through a web page or command line interface (CLI)—a labor-intensive, time-consuming, error-prone process that often involves hundreds or even thousands of devices.

To overcome these issues, software-defined networking (SDN) upped the ante with network automation and scalability.  A centralized management platform automates the configuration process and provides enhanced visibility into both physical and virtual networks.

The next big thing: intent-based networks
“The next big thing in networking,” says Gartner, is intent-based networking (IBN). An IBN system, they say, incorporates translation and validation of business policy, automated implementation, real-time awareness of network state, and dynamic optimization and remediation.

How does an intent-based network differ from a software-defined network? An IBN adds translation and assurance. In other words, an administrator tells the network an intent, and the intent-based network translates that intent into policy and device configurations that are automatically deployed, validated, and monitored.

How intent-based networking works in action
Consider this example: an organization needs to deploy new IoT devices across several manufacturing plants—a process that involves creating new VLANs, adding access lists and configuring ports across the entire network.

With intent-based networking, administrators define the business intent—“I want these IoT devices to only be accessible to this application and/or server.” Then, the IBN platform automatically interprets that intent into IT policies, defines the configuration changes needed across different network devices, applies those changes and constantly monitors them—a process that takes minutes versus hours or days.

For those looking to increase efficiency and decrease risk, this is huge. In fact, Gartner says:  “We believe a full IBNS implementation can reduce network infrastructure delivery times to the business leaders by 50% to 90%, while simultaneously reducing the number and duration of outages by at least 50%.”

The building blocks of intent-based networking
Cisco offers a slightly different approach to intent-based networking. It has three fundamental building blocks:

  • Translation: It translates intent (business or technical) from a network administrator into actions or policies and checks the integrity. Endpoints on the network are identified and placed into groups so that policies can be applied to them. Cisco ISE and manufacturer usage descriptions (MUDs) from devices and machine learning provide authentication. From a security standpoint, this is useful for segmenting the network traffic of certain devices (like IoT and mobile) from other mission-critical devices on the network.
  • Activation: It instantly implements configuration changes across the network (both physical and virtual devices) with minimal errors, using automation and/or network orchestration. For example, automation allows security updates to be rolled out in minutes with a single command, thereby minimizing the impact of security incidents and reducing business risk.
  • Assurance: It continuously monitors the network to ensure the original intent is being met, to proactively identify any degradation of performance or accessibility, and to recommend corrective action. Recent studies have shown that IT administrators spend 43 percent of their time troubleshooting network issues, and 4x more time collecting data than they do analyzing and resolving issues.  Because IBN platforms continuously collect data from the network and store it for troubleshooting, an IBN network assurance solution can greatly reduce the time spent troubleshooting network issues.

Agile, scalable and secure networks with Logicalis
As your organization continues its digital transformation journey by leveraging cloud computing and deploying IoT devices, your networks will necessarily become larger and more complex. Yet your business needs will demand an agile and adaptable network.

As one of just six Cisco Global Gold partners, Logicalis can help accelerate your digital transformation with an agile and adaptable network that enables business and global growth. Our borderless network solutions enable your IT organization to efficiently architect and deploy systems that provide secure, reliable and seamless access to resources from multiple locations and devices to applications located anywhere.

Bottom line, we’re focused on helping you achieve positive outcomes that enable business success.

How well does your network support your business?  Schedule a network assessment to learn more.