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How Does SDN Help Intent Based Networking?
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How Does SDN Help Intent Based Networking?

What Is Intent-Based Networking?

Intent-based networking is a software-enabled automation process that improves network operations and uptime by utilising high levels of intelligence, analytics, and orchestration. When operators describe the business outcomes they want to achieve, the network converts those goals into the configuration required to achieve them, eliminating the need for individual tasks to be coded and executed manually.

Consider the requirement for secure communications between two networks. A broad intent would state that a secure tunnel is required between Network A and Network B. An operator would determine which traffic should use the tunnel and describe any other general tunnel properties that are desired. However, the operator would not specify how the tunnel should be implemented, such as the number of devices to be used, how BGP advertisements should be sent, or which specific features and parameters should be enabled.

An intent-based networking system, on the other hand, generates a complete configuration of all devices based on the service description. It then performs ongoing assurance checks between the network’s intended and operational states, employing closed-loop validation to continuously verify the configuration’s correctness.

Role of SDN in Intent Based Networking

SDN is expected to play a role in enabling intent-based networking systems (IBNS), which promise to give network administrators greater control over networks through a combination of automation and machine learning. While SDN and intent-based networking are frequently confused, they are distinct concepts with similar goals. As service providers use SDN to virtualize their networks, many are looking to use it to advance IBNS.

In other words, IBNS is not intended to function independently. It is a software-defined networking (SDN) add-on that automates network configuration. IBN values SDN because virtualization is required for IBN to provide its benefits and have a single interface control an entire network. The network to which IBN is applied is made up of software-based devices that have been virtualized using an SDN architecture design.

Where SDN and IBNS Find a Common Ground? 

When implementing an IBNS, using an SDN controller to ensure a network behaves as an operator intends, SDN and intent-based networking intersect. With the open APIs introduced by SDN, various intent-based networking models involve automating various tasks, such as pinpointing and addressing anomalies in network traffic. At the same time, because intent-based networking is portable, apps designed for one SDN environment can be moved to another, giving app developers more flexibility.

Bottom Line 

IBN is a natural successor to SDN because it shares the same principles and architectures; a separation of the application and the network infrastructure. IBN, like SDN, is developing software that controls the network as a whole rather than device-by-device.

The question now is whether SDN as a concept can automate as much as you want it to. SDN, in essence, uses software to configure the network, resulting in a software-based network. However, IBN is the next step, where you have a more explicit emphasis. Intent-Based systems operate at a higher application level to provide true automation.

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