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Intent Based Networking – Working Principle, Advantages and Disadvantages

Intent Based Networking is the modern and developing concept of Networking that promises to reform the Networking industry. It incorporates Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning that helps in simplifying operations with the help of automation. This post will discuss in detail about Intent Based Networking, it’s Working Principle, key elements, various applications, advantages and disadvantages.

What is Intent Based Networking (IBN)

Intent Based Networking System along with an automated network management platform helps network administrators to define what they want the network to do and implements the desired state. In other words, the network administrator sends a request and the network responds to the request in real-time. The outcome/ result/state is defined initially by the network administrator at the service level called “Intent” and the Intelligence of the system decides how to derive at the specified Intent. Thus Intent Based Networking can eliminate the manual network configurations and manual translation with the help of Algorithmic Validation.

Introduction to Intent Based Networking (IBN)

Fig. 1 – Introduction to Intent Based Networking (IBN)

The need for systematic approaches in the field of networking is inevitable as the number and diversity of applications are increasing day by day. Providing efficient frame work for resource-management applications remains a challenge as the demands of the applications like Load Balancing, Service Chaining, Power Saving, Effective use of Bandwidth, Latency issues etc. needs to be fulfilled and it is not being addressed by the existing approaches.

The IBN Systems are expected to be available as software products or SaaS and continuous monitoring, verifying and validating the system as per the requirements and the specified Intent can be achieved.

Intent Based Networking

Fig. 2 – Intent Based Networking (IBN)

Industry experts predict that Intent Based Networking will be functioning by 2020 as Artificial Intelligence technology is yet to be implemented in the field of Networking. IBN Systems will be paramount to govern the Networks of Future connecting Data Centers, Public Clouds, Embedded Systems and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Working Principle of Intent Based Networking (IBN)

Intent Based Networking (IBN) requires three key elements to accomplish the specified Intent. They are:

  1. Intent
  2. Automation
  3. Assurance or Verification

1. Intent

Essentially, Intent is the application of business level objectives to the network in the form of declarative statements. It refers to the outcome or the result obtained for a specified objective that is defined by the end user. An end user could be a network administrator or a business user.

The “Intent” defined by the network administrator could be to access certain cloud application, managing network traffic etc. whereas the “Intent” defined by a business user could be the demand of an application that could handle specified requests per minute in real-time for a website etc. These statements are then translated in to machine readable language using AI (Artificial Intelligence), NLP (Natural Language Processing) technologies called as “Policies”. These “Policies” serves as a request to the API (Application Program Interface) called as Orchestration Engine.

Working Principle of Intent Based Networking

Fig. 3 – Intent Based Networking Model

2. Automation

Automation helps in integration between Data, Applications and various IT components. It works under the assumption that the systems receive the Intent in some form of command and control requests either using API’s, SNMP or remote CLI’s. Automation systems need to integrate with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) systems to provide services like eliminating the delays, scale the environment and providing security.

3. Assurance or Verification

The Intent Based Networking (IBN) system provides assurance of complete end to end visibility between applications, users and machines across any environment. The system is continuously monitored to validate and verify if the system is functioning as per the specified Intent. It also provides remediation if any discrepancies is found with the stated Intent and Policies.

Applications of Intent Based Networking (IBN)

Intent Based Networking systems will be used in Web Applications where handling the parameters like Web Application Firewall, Load Balancing, Security, Service Mesh becomes important. Some examples are as follows:

  • Web Application Firewall: An IBN system is crucial in Web Applications as it helps in Web Traffic Filtering and provides Real Time Visibility.
  • Load Balancing: An Intent Based Load Balancer should be able to operate on Multi-Cloud environments.
  • Security: As the Intent Based Networking (IBN) system works in conjunction with Artificial Intelligence, it can provide high security for the applications.
  • Service Mesh: Service Mesh when aligned with Intent Based Networking (IBN) Systems, will help in testing the application performance and how they behave when components within the environment fail.

Advantages of Intent Based Networking (IBN)

The advantages of Intent Based Networking are:

  • Simplicity: IBN System is simple to operate as it uses declarative statements in simple English which is easy to understand
  • Speed and Agility: IBN Systems provide agility for the applications and hence the response time to meet the objectives is fast
  • Cost: Operational cost is less

Disadvantages of Intent Based Networking (IBN)

The disadvantages of Intent Based Networking are:

  • Design of an Intent Based Networking system is complex as it involves multiple operating systems, environments and network components
  • Verification and Validation needs to be rigorous
  • The success of IBN System is entirely dependent on API’s (Application Programming Interface) as the provision of access to the network lies with API
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Laxmi Ashrit
Laxmi is a B.E (Electronics & Communication) and has work experience in RelQ Software as Test Engineer and HP as Technical support executive. She is an author, editor and partner at Electricalfundablog.
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