Why Intent Based Networking (IBN) is Important and What It Means for Business
Networking industry is about to revolutionized for ever. It has been decades that network engineers and architects are designing and deploying networks in the same way for decades and there was no mainstream way or standard to get the job done. Not any more!
Enterprises and governments are deploying their networks the same way for the last decades. The devices themselves have become more advanced though. Switches, routers, firewalls, load balancers, servers and storage boxes have became more and more complicated and can cater for todays fast business environments. However, the process of design, deploy and monitoring these boxes within the enterprise is still the same. Network engineers start the design manually based on business requirements, and then they start ordering and deploying the boxes one by one, or sometimes via configuration management tools in batch. Then after the deployment, they start monitoring the behavior of network with monitoring tools to see what will go wrong. Then they start troubleshooting things manually based on the knowledge that they have from network, which is normally not accurate and out of date.
Think of Intent Based Networking (IBN) as self autonomous car compare to a traditional car.
This is not acceptable anymore in todays business era which speed and reliability is a key measure. Imagine if a hospital wants to open up or expand a new building or clinic to stay competitive in health care industry by offering modern cures for cancer. If they want to go through the traditional way of doing things, it will takes months to roll out a new network and connecting it to the rest of the environment securely.
Another use case might be a bank which wants to offer new service on their internet banking application. If this will take more than a month, they will stay behind in the competition and will lose customers to other banks that could deliver these features to their customers quicker.
Intent Based Networking solve this problem. Think of Intent Based Networking (IBN) as self autonomous car compare to a traditional car. Traditional car has some specific tasks in specific scenarios that has been automated. Such as the gearing system or parallel parking. In contrast, with self driving autonomous car, you simply express your intent which is driving from home to office, and the cara will execute the intent based on series of automated tasks and making sure it is compliant with regulations and rules and everything has been done safely.
Intent Based Networking (IBN) is the same concept. Network engineer will determine the intent via set of commands (which are English friendly) and then by Intent Based Networking engine will run series of automated tasks securely to make sure that the new network is compliant with all the requirements.
This will revolutionize the way businesses can deliver services to their customers in terms of speed, agility, flexibility, reliability and transparency. Businesses can now become more strategic on how they want to deliver mission critical applications in separate and segmented networks without been worry about the existing traditional environment.
Intent Based Networking (IBN) Vendors
There are a mix of vendors that are doing work in this space. Cisco, Juniper and Huawei are the market giants that have IBN solutions.
In terms of startups, Apstra and Veriflow are offering end to end or part of the solution to their customers which proves that the demand exist for these types of services.
The following are the key value proposition that Intent Based Networking solution can offer:
- Closed Loop System: Without human intervention, networks can be designed, deployed and monitored in totally autonomous way
- Real time: As business requirements change, the network can change itself and adapt to the new criteria
- Transparent: Network is no longer belongs to networking team, anybody with proper permissions can start deploy networks based on their requirements and everyone can see what is inside the box
- Reliable: No more human errors (design, configuration and troubleshooting mistakes)
It is still early days of Intent Based Networking. My personal expectation is we have still long way to go and IBN will be broadly adopted within the next 3–4 years. For the next few years, number of vendors will rise as well in which different vendors offer different services which will be the main differentiation point.
Without any doubt, IBN will be the next revolution in networking space and businesses needs to understand what this means for their business and how they can gain competitive advantage in the market place.