Journey to an Intent-based Network
Insights from Gartner ITxpo Orlando
By now you’re aware that we’re on the verge of one of the biggest transitions the enterprise network has seen – and intent-based networking is the name many industry leaders are using to describe it. Whether you’ve heard about the concept of “intent-based networking” or not, the approach is one we will undoubtedly be hearing a lot more about in the coming months and years. More than just a specific technology it’s the holy grail of networking. A drastically new approach that enables the network to continuously align itself to the disparate demands of the organization. It brings together all the latest networking innovations including SDN, virtualization, machine learning, model-based APIs, and many security related innovations into a closed loop system capable of identifying, predicting, and responding to business needs. For all of us that have been in networking for any length of time, this is received with a healthy dose of skepticism – and rightly so. That’s why it is especially exciting for me to see this all come to fruition.
During Cisco Live! in June, we announced the network intuitive vision and the initial ground-breaking steps we are taking to transform the network to an intent-based system based on the Cisco Digital Network Architecture. I had the opportunity to share these latest developments with a senior IT audience at Gartner ITxpo last week. In fact, Gartner has been one of the leading proponents of intent-based networking – so what better venue to share these ideas?
All roads lead to an intent-based network.
Most importantly, I wanted to acknowledge to the audience that intent-based networking will be a multi-phased journey for each of their organizations and provide some actionable approaches to start that journey. While there is a common destination, where the network automatically understands and responds to all business and IT service demands and security and compliance policies, the route will often be different. The route will largely depend on where your organization’s priorities lie. So where do your priorities lie? Is it with IOT and mobile, cloud, assurance, security – or something else?
Scaling for IoT and mobile
For example, is your organization most concerned with the complexity of managing and scaling the Internet of Things (IoT) and/or mobile devices? If so you should start by using intent-based networking to simplify and automate secure access policy across the network for all users and devices. This will require applying software-defined networking capabilities across all wired, wireless connections. By automatically creating granular software-defined segments based on identity across the entire network, you can protect workgroups, BYOD, guests, contractors, partners and IoT devices, regardless of where and how they are accessing the network.
Performance and security for cloud
Alternatively, if your biggest challenge is migrating workloads to the cloud, you should start by using intent-based networking to ensure the secure and high quality user experience of cloud apps. This means applying software defined networking to your WAN environment, so that you can provide secure direct access to cloud apps at branches. You’ll also want to segment access to cloud apps from other apps and extend your WAN to the various SaaS points of presence (POPs) through virtualized routing capabilities.
Assurance, security and optimization
Other examples include organization’s that begin by prioritizing the securing of their digital initiatives, or ensuring network and service assurance, or simply lowering IT costs and optimizing IT processes. In each case you will start your journey with the investment and at the point that is most critical to you. However, because intent-based networking is a systems approach, all deployments will eventually converge on an integrated system that requires a holistic closed loop approach to policy, assurance, and automation across all parts of the network.
Benefits and risks
This journey comes with benefits – but also risks. The reward for the organization taking this journey is a network that can keep up with the demands of your organization, while reducing operational costs and combatting ever more dangerous security risks. For the network team, it means moving away from cumbersome operational maintenance that yield very little true benefit to the business and towards creating value to the top and bottom lines. However this will require a fair amount of re-skilling and process change that are not without their own risks. Additionally, as with every major technology transition, there are technology and process risks associated with implementation. You will need to carefully plan your migration, so that you can quickly reap the rewards without affecting existing service levels.
How can Cisco help?
When it comes to guiding IT organizations through complex transitions, we have a proven success track record that we have no intention of spoiling. It starts with a commitment to our customers’ success. It includes a committed technology vision, strategy, and roadmap and includes a rich and open ecosystem, retraining resources and a rich set of Cisco and partner services. You are not alone – Cisco and our partners will be with you each step of the way.
Check out my presentation from Gartner ITxpo below, then take a quick self-assessment of your own network readiness.
Dive into the innovative Cisco DNA solutions for intent-based networking we are offering today.
Would love to hear from you on your own journey to IBN.