Cisco Canada Blog

Journey to Intent-based networking: campus, WAN, and beyond

April 20, 2018

When the status quo is challenged and pushed to a point where the old way of doing things become irrelevant, there are two decisions to make.  We can either choose to lag behind or we can quickly learn to adapt, and breathe in the fresh air of change.

And that’s exactly what we did at Cisco when we announced a new era of networking last year with our Catalyst 9000 series of switches and automation capabilities with Software-Defined Access, stepping  into the exciting world of Intent-based networking (or IBN), built on our very own Digital Network Architecture platform. We evolved. We refined. We simplified.

Fast forward almost a year later, we’ve expanded the benefits of Intent-based networking today across the WAN, branch, and cloud spanning our entire Enterprise Networks portfolio. Notably, we hit a major milestone with the Viptela acquisition earlier this year, paring our most intelligent routing hardware (ISR) with industry-leading software and analytics capabilities (vAnalytics) to deliver the ultimate SD-WAN solution. Big things are happening, and we’re just getting warmed up.

This week we announced another round of updates to our portfolio to accelerate our IBN footprint. Here’s a quick recap to give you a closer look at where we’ve been, and where we’re headed in the short term in this exciting space:

  • Catalyst Portfolio Expansion: the latest additions to our Catalyst 9000 series ZTP (zero touch provisioning) switches boast 25G/40G/100G links, packing even more punch and functionality for network configuration, operation, and monitoring.
  • Software-Defined Access innovations: for the first time, the automation benefits of SD-Access can be reaped for the extended enterprise. This means network devices connected to warehouses, distribution centers, etc. are met with consistent policy across multiple sites without any additional management overhead.
  • Aironet 4800: It’s our smartest access point yet designed for the ultimate user experience; ideal for organizations looking to bring high-speed connectivity, cutting-edge security, and assurance capabilities to extract insights from their wireless network.
  • ISE enhancements: Say hello to the latest security software upgrade, ISE 2.4, doubling down on the number of IoT device and user device groups for increased visibility and insights on who and what is hitting the network.
  • Quick-Start Offers for DNA Center and SD-Access: Reduce risk and max your ROI with an ‘all in one’ services package from the planning and advisory stage all the way to design and implementation. Transforming the network has never been easier with a team of experts to help guide you along the way.

Ok, so let’s maybe back up here a bit to level-set.

What exactly is Intent-based networking?

An intent-based network bridges the gap between business and IT. It captures business intent and continuously aligns the end-to-end network with that intent. Intent can apply to application service levels, security policies, compliance, operational processes, and other business needs. Organizations need to move faster and with confidence, and many networks just can’t keep up with the scale, complexity, and threats of today’s business environment.

Why should you care?

The business benefits of Intent-based networking are clear in three main areas:

Speed and agility. The network is able to rapidly respond to an organization’s needs with little manual intervention.

Business value. The reduced time and effort required to maintain the network translates into more time for IT innovations that provide real value to the business.

Reduced risk. Improved network visibility, analytics and automation result in faster threat detection and containment, continuous compliance, and reduced downtime.

How does Intent-based networking work?

IBN captures and translates business intent so that it can be applied across the network, where it continuously monitors and adjusts to ensure alignment. That’s achieved through a closed-loop system that includes translation (business intent capture), activation (automated policy activation, networkwide) and assurance (continuous monitoring and verification).  For IBN to really achieve its full potential, each of these functions are present and build on a programmable network infrastructure.

Will intent replace humans in IT jobs?

Probably not anytime soon. Intent-based networks are automated so IT is freed from mundane, reactive tasks to instead leave time focus on digital innovations and new revenue streams by aligning more closely to specific business goals and outcomes. You still need a real, live human to input the data (i.e. state the intent or policy), but configuration tasks are drastically reduced.

Intent-based networking is more than just the latest industry buzzword for 2018—it’s the future. Organizations are striving to compete with their peers, and to support whatever initiative necessary for the business (which we no doubt expect to always change on a whim). The answer is a responsive, agile network to push boundaries and enable things it couldn’t before. Keep your eyes peeled as we continue to extend our vision with an open, programmable, and intuitive platform for digital business.

Check out the Network Sixth Sense video to see IBN in action, and make sure to read the blog update earlier this week from Scott Harrell, SVP of Enterprise Networks for more details!

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