Intent is a high-level operational goal that operates at the level of the network and services it provides rather than at the device level. It allows the network to determine which algorithms and instructions should be applied to accomplish the goal.
Intent-based networking slashes errors and risks and improves operations and uptime by automating these manual processes. It reduces the need for IT staff to perform routine health checks manually and keeps the network aligned with original business objectives.
Table of Contents
Determine Your Network’s Needs
The first step in implementing intent-based networking is determining your network’s needs. This involves assessing the current state of your network, including its physical and logical layouts, data flows, applications & services, security settings, and performance. It will help you plan how to deploy, configure, and test your IBN solution.
Intent ingestion involves human-readable consumer inputs translated into a machine-readable intent perspective for further processing by the management and control domain. It translates into configurations propagated to the service and network orchestration layers for deployment. Intent based networking example include ensuring high availability for critical applications, optimizing network performance for real-time applications, complying with regulatory requirements, and automating network provisioning and decommissioning. This reduces manual tasks and speeds up troubleshooting, as the network automatically determines how to make the desired changes. In addition, the network can automatically detect and resolve issues arising from hardware errors or power outages. It leads to more consistent outcomes for your business, allowing you to scale up without worrying about the impact on network performance.
Analyze Your Network’s Current State
Once you’ve narrowed down the cause of your network issues, you can take action. Often, this involves using the network troubleshooting tools available to you and asking users about their experiences. It can help you identify if the issue is hardware-related or software.
An intent-based networking solution allows you to define a desired outcome or business objective. Then, it lets your network figure out how to accomplish that goal independently, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning. It means you can spend less time on manual configuration and management tasks.
It also makes it easier to roll back to a previously known good state in the event of an outage or other problems during an intentional push. And, because the network constantly performs self-checks, it’s more likely to catch an issue before it causes major disruptions. This ability to detect, diagnose, and resolve issues in real time reduces costs and improves performance.
Define Your Network’s Intent
The intent-based network’s architecture focuses on transforming your current infrastructure to be more intelligent. This is achieved through ML, which allows systems to analyze data and learn automatically without explicit programming. This means that your network can understand and predict what to do based on the information you provide.
The software works like those sound presets on a graphic equalizer, communicating with switches and adjusting their traffic shaping methods to match the types of traffic that you expect on your network. It also performs self-checks to ensure your network operates as intended and meets your business goals.
It then immediately translates your business goals into optimal network configurations, saving time and effort from planning, testing, and manually configuring the network. This closed-loop automation enables you to achieve your business goals faster and deliver better performance.
Implement Your IBN Solution
Intent-based networking focuses on intent instead of network configuration, translating into faster troubleshooting and fewer manual tasks. The idea is that, with specialized software, the network can understand what an application needs (or wants) and figure out how to deliver on that.
In an IBN system, a network administrator specifies an intent (a high-level goal), and the network configures itself to meet that need. For example, if executives want high-speed video conferencing, the network could automatically deploy virtual devices to ensure sufficient bandwidth is available.
IBN solutions use a combination of network automation and orchestration, data analytics, and telemetry to determine the best path for meeting an intent. In contrast, traditional policies require a more detailed and prescriptive approach to addressing business goals and are often vulnerable to edge cases (such as not handling a slow connection). IBN systems also provide better visibility into network performance to prevent downtime and security issues before they occur.
Monitor Your Network’s Performance
Intent-based networking solutions translate your business goals into network configurations and devices to ensure the network operates as intended. It makes your network smarter and more responsive to your business needs.
However, to make your IBN solution work for you, monitoring your network’s performance to ensure it delivers the expected benefits is important. It includes monitoring performance metrics such as bandwidth, uptime, latency, and packet loss.
When your network operates according to its intended state, it can deliver the necessary services without additional manual intervention. This lets you focus on more strategic network operations and have a better customer experience.
Update Your IBN Solution
Intent-based networking is a continuous loop that starts with system administrators’ input, which the network translates into policies and then implements. The network then monitors itself and detects suspicious activity, alerting administrators to potential problems and suggesting steps for troubleshooting.
A well-functioning IBN solution combines data abstraction with automated implementation, network state awareness, and dynamic optimization. It can also verify that the actual network state meets intent by comparing it to proposed setups without relying on low-level device configuration or fiddling with configuration knobs. Many IBN solutions offer a network-as-a-service model, allowing you to manage devices across your entire network from one interface. However, beware of solutions that promise IBN but don’t offer an API or a unified network management console. They may be limited in functionality and can introduce overhead that runs counter to the goal of automation. Instead, look for IBN-inspired products with low-code commercial architecture and support from established vendors.