Intent-based networking: The path starts with verification

Why Intent?
Why focus on intent? Because you already do. Intent is the inspiration behind innovation; it is the why that drives everything we do. This is the genesis behind intent-based networking: to align the entire system’s behavior to the original motivation and goal of the design, to improve operational efficiency, and to achieve excellence within the network. Intent-based networking spurs evolution from a network that needs constant operational attention with manual human intervention at every update and change, to one that intuitively knows what needs to be done and makes it happen.

The benefits of an intent-based infrastructure are tremendous. Among the most prevalent are immediate gains in speed and agility, with a 50-90%1 reduction of network delivery times. How? Teams are freed to move from a labor-intensive CLI driven approach to one that aligns with the needs of the business. Removing the manual steps within configuring and managing a network certainly saves time and money, with operational costs reduced by 61%2, but this strategy also saves the network. Why? The network is complex. Anyone operating in today’s distributed multi-vendor network, full of virtual overlays, containers, SDN, and cloud migrations, knows this. Under the weight of all this complexity, it is no surprise that human error is a significant contributor to network outages and vulnerabilities. When you transfer these time-based savings into the hourly cost of an engineer, the financial impact is clear. It is no wonder the CEO of the $47B networking powerhouse Cisco announced that “intent-based networking will redefine the network for the next 30 years.” IBN is more than a nice option; it is the next required step in the modernization of the network.

Barriers – the network is complex and dirty
But the path to IBN is littered with challenges. As teams look to take this next step they must overcome legacy infrastructure, technological debt, and a culture of “changephobia,” resulting from an “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. According to a recent research note released by Gartner, many of these “Suboptimal network practices result in downtime, reduce network agility, waste human and capital resources and lead to suboptimal network investment.” These practices didn’t develop overnight but reflect the rapid, early success of the network. We have seen unprecedented growth, not only in everyday demand to connect people and businesses, but also in the technology and tools that make all this connectivity possible. To meet demand and required scale, harried networking teams implementing new technology often “MacGyver” the network to create a synergy between these forces of hyper-growth and innovation. Teams are continually asked to do more, but with fewer resources and within shorter and shorter change windows. And this isn’t going to change; the gap between growing complexity in the network and the resources needed to support IT will continue to widen. The bottom line is that humans alone can no longer keep up. Organizations which are winning in digital transformation have acknowledged this and are embracing automation as the essential element within their modernization initiatives.

Why verification?
The execution of IBN beyond theory is about automation. And organizations must start to automate now or face being outpaced by competitors who are taking advantage of the digital transformation. But before you unleash automation into a complex environment you need to understand the current state of your network. Your network operation teams are probably still catching up from the last significant transformational changes to hit your network, whether that was some form of SDN, ACI, virtualization, containers, cloud, etc. Layering more complexity into these systems without gaining control and cleaning up existing brownfields will not instill confidence in networking teams, and may exasperate the “changephobia” culture within IT.

Network verification helps you meet this challenge on two fronts. First, by harnessing the data from your infrastructure with mathematical flow-based modeling, your teams can start “automating the easy.” On this front, Continuous Network Verification provides system-wide assurance with non-disruptive automation that automatically infers and verifies that the network is always operating as the architect intended. Second, this verification leads to a behavioral shift in networking teams. By incrementally verifying the network, we remove the veil of complexity and clear out years of technological debt. Your organization, now armed with a new level of awareness into the actual behavior of your network, can confidently embrace innovation and change and take that first step onto the path of intent-based networking.

Accelerate the journey
Intent-based networking and the fully autonomous network define our future, although they may be a bit further down the road than marketing teams would like you to believe. But the reality is that we can start on this path today. We can, through the use of mathematical verification, start to adopt and leverage the benefits of IBN, reduce technological debt and save countless of hours of engineering time. We can free up our IT teams and get them back to building and operating the network of the future.

To learn more about intent -based networking and verification, reach out to us today and request a demo or visit our IBN Hub.

1 Are you working with intent?
2 Are you working with intent?