Picture this: your enterprise network is accessed by more than hundreds and thousands of employees, clients, and devices at any given instance. Undoubtedly, you need to capture any incidents at the endpoints, drive insights into security, and most importantly ensure one consistent policy across your network for all connected devices. But what if your network is intelligent enough to weave all these together: analytics of unusual behavior, employment of consistent policy which follows users, connected devices irrespective of their locations or projects?
Think about a large network with these capabilities for troubleshooting issues and collecting data. Resultantly, troubleshooting time will be reduced, and the collected data can be reused to improve the wired/wireless experience for students and researchers. As connected devices proliferate, new opportunities spur and so do new challenges. Research anticipates that, by the end of 2025, there will be 25 billion connected devices which will heavily impact traditional infrastructures in terms of dealing with configuration, compliance, and security.
Enter Intent-based Networking (IBN), the new era of networking which describes a network’s business objective. A network which operates as a Network-as-a-Service, and employs automation, analytics, intelligent software, and policies that let network administrators define what they want the network to do. Precisely, intent serves as an explicit behavioral contract between the business rules and the operational state of your infrastructure. IBN is powered by intent, informed by context to build a constantly learning, adapting and protecting system. There are 3 pillars to this strategy:
- Translation – capture the intent and translate into network and security policies
- Activation – validation and auto configurations to network components
- Assurance – continuous verification and analysis to assure things are behaving as the business intended
According to our 2020 Global Networking Trends Report, 35% of IT leaders and strategists plan for their network to be fully intent-based within 2 years, up from mere 4% today. In APJC, while only 28% of IT leaders and strategists think they have some sort of service-driven or intent-based network today, 84% plan to be there in 2 years. Amongst the trends (AI, Multicloud, Security, 5G, Wi-Fi 6) which will enable IBN, we found out AI to be the most outstanding one poised to solidify IBN’s relevance within network strategists. In APJC, 44% of network strategists globally identified AI as the #1 investment priority for delivering on an “ideal” network, especially for performance monitoring/troubleshooting and threat detection/response. AI can analyze huge amounts of network data, from telemetry to traffic patterns, and understand anomalies as well as optimal network configurations, and alert IT on detected anomalies, relevant root cause, and recommended remediations, resulting in huge time savings in troubleshooting and better network reliability.
Furthermore, breaking down technology and operational silos is also a key priority for IT leaders in APJC. 44% of IT leaders believe consistent management across disparate networking domains (campus, branch, WAN, data center, cloud) is critical to achieve an ideal network. 30% of IT leaders identified that a siloed design and operational approach across different IT domains was holding them back. Having a multidomain solution that threads and connects cross domain segmentation policy, application experience, and security will help IT break down silos.
Legacy infrastructures worked when there were closed environments, applications on premises, and everything was scrutinized by the IT teams with minimal multi-vendor device management necessities. But then the world changed. Enterprise perimeters eroded, apps moved to cloud, and millions of heterogenous devices tried to get connected (wired/wireless). Traditional networks failed to cope with this shift and scale up, lacked sustainable operational models, and struggled implementing accurate security measures. Intent-based networking (IBN) is designed for this new era of IT.
Ironically, the biggest roadblock to welcoming the need for dealing with any change is resistance to change. Technology alone doesn’t suffice to be a catalyst for this change. It’s our collective response to the opportunities offered by technology that will drive this change. Any transition to advanced technology requires a steady evolution of existing skill-sets as well as a strong communion of institutions, organizations to maintain the learning curve. Today in APJC, 26% of IT leaders identify the lack of necessary skills as the main obstacle to transitioning to advanced network. Another 25% of IT leaders prioritize reskilling and upskilling to address the skills gap.
As digital transformation starts taking central stage of any business, network professionals will need to focus more on business goals through value-added services. However, this will become easier to achieve with increasing levels of automation in advanced networks. Existing network roles will evolve, and organizations will require convergence of workflows, processes, IT, OT, etc. This changed world will require a healthy mix of technical, software, and business expertise to deliver, retain the declarative specifications of IBN to the enterprise realm, as promised. Change is not our enemy—it’s our only friend in life. A future in which a modern-day player fails to react to change will face the biggest threat.
Read the 2020 Global Networking Trends Report