A beginner guide to Software-Defined and Intent-Based Networking

While we transition from the traditional stage to supportive networks and systems with advanced programming, we’re bound of needing clarification on what we’re doing and how to handle the issue.

This article aims at providing an introduction to the concepts of Intent-Based Networking (IBN) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN). Are you curious to learn more? If you do, then keep reading.

Introduction to Software-Defined Networking (SDN)

Before we scrape the surface of software-defined networking, or SDN for short, we will review the bare basics of this type of networking. 

In a nutshell, SDN is the foundation for automating the whole network lifecycle. This method enables network administrators to manage and control their networks without having to physically set up the infrastructure (hardware, switches, and other devices). As a result, large network infrastructures become more scalable and easier to manage thanks to network automation and orchestration.

Software-defined networks centralize network management, provides a global view of network configurations and network performance, and enables network programmability. The communication scheme often focuses on the use of APIs (or Application Programming Interface) and OpenFlow protocols.

One last thing – Software-Defined Networks often pairs up with network virtualization, as it better enables the virtualization of physical hardware to cloud-based virtual machines.

Software-defined networks centralize network management, provides a global view of network configurations and network performance, and enables network programmability.

Characteristics of an SDN architecture

There are distinctive characteristics of a Software-Defined Networking architecture.

For starters, it is centrally managed, maintaining a general view of the network. The view itself centralized and on a global level.

The next feature of SDN is the simplicity of network design with smooth, agile operations. The software-designed networks use their own controllers rather than relying on specific vendor devices.

Finally, a Software-Defined Network is directly programmable. It writes unique software that expands and/or replaces different parts of the control panel (or dashboard) provided by the vendors.

Top three benefits of SDN

Software-Defined Networks are one step ahead of traditional networks. Traditional networking usually relies on fixed-function network devices, which makes them functional and fast, but doesn’t provide much flexibility and speed of management.

What are some benefits should we know about SDN?

  • Easily available as software versus hardware: Compared to traditional networking, SDN is more flexible and can increase networking capacity. Additionally, SDN is software-based, so there’s no need to increase the hardware when the network itself is centralized.
  • The need for speed: Software-defined networks move quicker. While many vendors would require their devices to be configured manually, with SDN networking admins can choose their equipment and use a single protocol to communicate and configure a wide range of different hardware devices.
  • Top-notch monitoring: SDN provides transparency and a detailed view of security threats against the servers. Diligent operators can separate zones and devices that require a custom security level, making sure the networks remain well-controlled.

Introduction to Intent-Based Networking

Intent-based networking or IBN technology aims at replacing the manual process of configuring and negative reaction to network issues, thanks to the integration of a deep level of intelligence into the systems.

It usually integrates artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, and machine learning to automate administrative tasks throughout the network.

Intent-Based Networking can be described as a policy-driven approach based on “intent-based” algorithms, which objective is to create self-managed networks (as opposed to manually managed).

Intent-Based Networking can be described as a policy-driven approach based on “intent-based” algorithms, which objective is to create self-managed networks.

Core features

One main feature that Intent-Based Networks have is distinctive translation and validation. It examines and validates the request you’ve put in to make sure it’s doable. Afterward, the system sends the configurations to the network engineer for approval.

Another feature is advanced Intent-Based Analytics. It uses this information to monitor and become aware of network behavior. Finally, based on the data, the model will gauge different tests and configurations that could affect the network.

A third feature of Intent-Based Networking systems is core optimization and/or remediation. While it uses machine learning, the system implements the desired state of the network. Then, it’ll extract and learn from the collected data on a dynamic level, reducing the complexity of management.

Gartner also summarize the key elements of an IBN system as follows: translation and validation, automated implementation, awareness of network state, and assurance and dynamic optimization.

 

  • Translation and validation: the system can translate a business intent into actions. As mentioned before, it also verifies that the command can actually be performed by the software.
  • Automated implementation: Once the first step validated, the software will allocate resources and enforce policies to meet the intent.
  • State awareness: The system will continuously analyze and monitor the system to reflect the current state of the network.
  • Assurance and dynamic remediation: Using ML, the software will assure the correct state of the network at all times, deploying corrective actions when necessary.

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