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Intent-Based Networking

Sep 24, 2015

Dave Lenrow provides his insights on Intent-Based Networking (IBN) in advance of ONF’s upcoming webinar with SDx Central. 

Conversations regarding Intent-Based Networking (IBN) are heating up. In my recent post on SDx Central, I provide insights into the various benefits of IBN and what the various industry organizations are doing to contribute to IBN projects. Below is an excerpt from that piece, and the entire article can be accessed here. ONF will also host a webinar with SDx Central discussing IBN on September 30. For more information and to register, click here.

I have written previously about Intent-Based Networking (IBN) (“Intent: Don’t Tell Me What to Do! (Tell Me What You Want)“, “The Most Important Work in SDN: Have We Got It Backward?“) and the potential it offers to change the way we operate and employ networking infrastructure. Part of my day job is working in open communities to try and create a common interface to an Intent-based network infrastructure controller, which we seek to proliferate widely across diverse controller systems, network devices, and protocols.

I am pleased to report that there are diverse, and sometimes overlapping, groups of people actively engaged in building Intent-based systems solutions across the Open Networking FoundationOpenDaylightON.LabOpenStack, and various NFV projects. We still need plenty of help from smart, dedicated people, but we are on our way to providing fungible components from which network solutions can easily be built.

We are poised to offer true choice and head-to-head “bake-offs” between system components and architectural choices without onerous integration costs. The much sought-after and rarely seen “second source” option will actually be made available to network operators, and vendor-specific lock-in and high-friction changes will be largely eliminated by agreeing to this critical inter-system interface. To insure success we are rapidly making multiple implementations available in order to appeal to diverse stake-holders and reduce barriers to entry for innovators.

The Network Effect

In order to succeed, it will be necessary to create a “network effect.” This concept is based on the idea that in an ecosystem, there is a non-linear growth pattern that develops from a virtuous cycle. Facebook, for example, saw explosive growth due to the fact that the value of the service is a function of how many people use it.

In software platform terms, the forces acting are operators and vendors. For a given API/SDK ecosystem, if more vendors support it, more customers will seek it, which will lead more vendors to support it, a winner-take-all network effect that can establish a dominant platform. We hope to create a network effect of adoption of IBN, by proliferating a common, community-developed Northbound Interface (NBI) with compelling value for both operators and vendors.

IBN is gathering strong support from diverse stakeholders in the cloud, data center, and enterprise sectors. Evangelism and education by true believers have spread the word to the point where IBN can go mainstream. Highly regarded industry analyst and SDN/NFV expert Tom Nolle has sung the praises of this approach (multiple blogs: “Could Intent Modeling Save the NFV Business Case?“, “Intent Models in NFV: More than “Useful”, “Diving Deeper into Intent Models for NFV“). Below, we’ll outline multiple projects, indicative of the broad interest in IBN.

To learn more about IBN, please register for ONF’s webinar with SDx Central, taking place September 30 at 10 a.m. PDT, by visiting https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/featured/intent-driven-networking-onf-webinar/2015/09/.

To read the full article originally posted on SDx Central, click here.

– Dave Lenrow, Distinguished Architect, Advanced Technology Group – HP Networking