Opening the Gates to Intent-based Networking

This is a guest post authored by Muninder Sambi, Senior Director of Product Management, Enterprise Networking Business.

As I think about the transformation we, at Cisco, are trying to drive in the networking industry with intent-based Networking, I can’t help but compare it to the transformation electric cars have brought to the automobile industry. Much like the automotive revolution, we’re helping our customers reach their networking ‘destinations’ quicker and at less cost – deploy networks easily, enable new network services faster, and reduce the time needed to isolate and fix day-to-day issues.

To achieve this, we have had to re-visit some of the networking fundamentals that have been established over the past decades. Much as only an electric motor can fundamentally change the way continuous torque is delivered to help achieve record-breaking acceleration, moving to an intent-based Networking architecture is a giant leap forward for the networking industry. Besides providing the obvious benefits of granular, real-time metrics while at the same time being able to scale the system for the largest enterprise deployments, controller-centric networking operations are able to perform batch operations and be able to roll back to a well-known state network-wide in case of any single failure.

In addition to a world-class controller, the other foundational elements to building an intent-based network are best-of-breed hardware and an advanced operating system. In the Cisco Enterprise Networking team we have fully embraced this approach with IOS XE which is our bleeding- edge operating system for our enterprise customers and complements our IOS XR and NX OS portfolio.

One of the key elements of IOS XE is the support of open, standards-based data models both for configuration and operational data that is a fundamental piece needed for scaling of controller-based architectures. These data models are exposed through standards-based API interfaces in a variety of broadly understood data representations, and are available for consumption by any external entity. These APIs are essentially the “currency” for the new Era of Networking!

In addition, to bootstrap our customers who are going down the journey of building DevOps-style workflows that leverage these data models and interfaces, we have introduced Cisco Validated Design (CVD) Configuration Management Templates for IOS XE which automate deployment of Cisco reference designs through the use of declarative configurations.

The first CVD Configuration Management Template released is an Ansible Playbook for Campus LAN Layer 2 Access.  It is available for download now from the Cisco DevNet GitHub repository free of charge.

As the pace of innovation in our industry accelerates, we want to further unlock the potential for our customer to use our network infrastructure and the compute capabilities that it offers, in ways that we ourselves may not have envisioned. Towards this, we are introducing Application Hosting capabilities on the Catalyst 9000 switches as well as our ISR/ASR routers, enabling various Cisco and third party applications to be hosted in Linux containers (LXC) or as a Kernel-based VM (KVM) in our 16.8.1 release of IOS XE this month.

We are already seeing customers use these early capabilities to run applications for network analytics, security, network operations workflows and IoT on the network infrastructure, and cannot wait to see where we go next with this.

At Cisco Enterprise Networks, it is certainly a continuous delight for me to introduce new capabilities for networking. But it is even more exciting to see what you build with the capabilities that are made available to you. Here’s to creating the future of networking together!


Sachin Gupta

Senior Vice President, Product Management

Cisco Intent-Based Networking Group