Networks have long been indispensable for business operations, but are becoming increasingly complex. Techniques such as intent-based networking are intended to reduce this complexity.
The important role of the network in day-to-day operations is too inconspicuous when it “just works”. To make matters worse, the budgets for IT infrastructure in most companies are still very limited. It is not uncommon for cost considerations to prompt companies and their IT departments to switch to as-a-service or cloud offerings in the area of networks as well. The effects of the much-cited digital transformation will not stop at those companies that would probably describe themselves as “very digital”. Most analysts are unanimous in their assessment that a large proportion of companies will have to significantly expand or change their operational practices in order to continue to run their business efficiently digitally in the years to come.
What is IBN and what is it good for?
Anyone who takes a look at company networks today will still find network management and support, especially in companies from the SME environment, as it has been in use for decades: “The network administrator takes care of the flashing routers, switches and hubs in the data center and can often solve problems by quickly rewiring.” In their study “Network Transformation in Germany”, the analysts from IDC tried to name both the goals and requirements as well as the technology required for the long overdue modernization of the networks in the companies are needed. First of all, they also state that the networks in many companies have been living in the shadows for years compared to much more prominent infrastructure solutions such as cloud computing or the use of new CPUs and GPUs. The analysts draw the conclusion that many companies in this country are not yet sufficiently aware of their general dependency on their networks, and especially in the future.
At the same time, as part of the study, they were able to find out that the majority (31 percent) of the companies surveyed consider security to be the biggest driver for network transformation and modernization, but that 24 percent said network management was the biggest driver and 20 percent said it was “agility & Flexibility” as the decisive factor.
Gartner analysts have ventured to define intent-based networking, describing it as a model of what networks are expected to do in terms of outcomes. The English term “intent” also stands for “goal” or “specification”. IT administration and management should be able to specify which business goals are supported by the technology of the network. The Gartner analysts have formulated four points that, in their opinion, characterize the IBN approach:
- Verification of validity (Validation) and translation/transfer (Translation): A business guideline is adopted and checked by the system. It is then translated into the appropriate network configuration.
- Automatic implementation: The necessary configurations and changes to the existing network infrastructure are made by the IBN system, using techniques such as network automation and orchestration.
- Awareness: An IBN solution must monitor the network in real time. An important point here is platform independence. This applies not only to the protocols, but also to the (often heterogeneous) transport layers that are used in the network.
- Protection and optimization: Of course, such a system must also check to what extent the defined business goal is then actually implemented and achieved. This verification takes place in real time. If necessary, the IBN system will make changes and adjustments according to the specifications.
Such a system provides services that range from the highest level of business processes to the “right network” – i.e. the actual infrastructure. The employees in the IT departments should thus have tools at hand with which the requirements of business operations can be translated into the existing network infrastructure: They can therefore determine whether the company network really behaves as the “business intent” requires ‘ required. What is ultimately to be achieved is verified. In this way, a network supported by IBN can ideally map the complete management cycle of this important infrastructure.