The Industry Embraces Intent-Based Networking

Apstra Blog
The Industry Embraces Intent-Based Networking

This is a really big week for Apstra — the CEO of the largest networking company in the world gave a ringing endorsement and stated that Intent-Based Networking is the future of Cisco and of the industry — it really cannot get much better than this!

Chuck Robbins personally introduced “Cisco’s new network, powered by intent.” To quote him, “Let’s think about a financial institution that wants to ensure that the top tier of the customers have the best experience. Today the way that works is that they define quality of service and they have hundreds of engineers who would go through and deploy those lines of code throughout the infrastructure. With intent-based infrastructure, the customer describes the intent (…) and through automation and machine learning the network will deploy that intent in an automated way in a matter of moments, and over time the network will adapt and learn using machine learning so that it can optimize that experience for the customer of the bank based on the policy and the intent that the bank defines.”

That is indeed intent-based networking, which Apstra pioneered as part of our founding vision back in 2014. The operator defines business intent and through automation and closed-loop telemetry, the infrastructure delivers on this business intent in a matter of minutes. In the process, operational expenses are reduced massively through a reduction in the inefficient manual work which consumes 80% of operators’ time today. And we move from inefficient box-by-box, manual operations to system-level, intent-based operations. The ultimate goal is to deliver on the vision of a self-operating network, which Apstra defines as a network that configures itself, monitors itself, fixes itself, and documents itself.

We invited the industry to join us on our journey, and they are! In February of this year Gartner published a report called Innovation Insight: Intent-Based Networking Systems (IBNS) and created a new category and market opportunity. In the report, they call our flagship product Apstra Operating System (AOS) the only full Intent Based Networking System available; and this week, Cisco launched intent-based networking products which it called “one of the most significant breakthroughs in enterprise networking”.

What we want to be really careful of though is that the community’s goals for Intent-Based Networking, and what we at Apstra sometimes call the ‘Self Operating Network,’ are not subordinated to any single vendor’s viewpoint. We watched what happened with the dilution of SDN and the purposeful confusion that was sown in the market with projects like Open Daylight while some vendors paid lip service to interoperability and standards. It is of paramount importance that we as a networking industry come together and vote with our voices and our spending power on a new order — one where vendors are held to high standards by the consumers, where we are pushed to work together and not lock anyone into a solution or system, and where, as Cisco employees have proudly worn on their badges for decades, there is ‘no technology religion.’

Our job is to innovate and push the boundaries of what our customers have thought possible, to build systems and features and capabilities that delight them and help them be ever more successful. If we do our jobs and deliver high quality products that amaze our customers and solve pressing business and IT challenges — we know we are going to be able to build a thriving and sustainable company at which the best and brightest engineers will be proud to work.

As we continue to lead the technical charge in building Intent-Based Networking systems it is important that we keep a clear eye towards that goal and what it really is — to build a system where the outcome is pre-defined and the configuration, cabling, and operating context are constantly evaluated against the operator’s goals. We aim to subordinate the atomic CLI, SNMP, and even XML configurations to a higher-order, the Intent. Intent defines what we really want, configuration is our attempt to achieve our Intent with the language and semantics that the vendors provide to us.

I’d like to thank Chuck Robbins from Cisco for recognizing what an incredibly powerful capability Intent-Based Networking is for all of the Cloud, Service Provider, Enterprise, and Small/Medium network operators out there. We sincerely hope that as Cisco joins this community they continue to add technical and market-focused capabilities and help usher in this next wave of networking.

If you’re still sitting on the sidelines of Intent-Based Networking Systems, this is the time to get in the game. I invite you to follow Gartner’s recommendation, “pilot intent-based networking solutions”, and “budget for it using improved network agility, increased network uptime, and/or better alignment with business initiatives as the funding drivers”.

Apstra is the only vendor that has a data center focused, vendor agnostic, full intent-based network system available today, and we would love to hear from you.

We look forward to celebrating this win for customers at @CiscoLive at our joint party with Packet Pushers, which we named “Intent to Party” (the pun is… intended!). So if you’re an IT professional, please schedule a 1:1 to see a demo at our booth and request an invitation to join us and learn more about Apstra and our intent-based networking solutions.

I would have normally said “see you there” as I would never miss such an event to celebrate with my fellow Apstrktrs and connect with our customers. But on a personal note we’re expecting our third daughter any day, and I am choosing to stay back in the Bay Area to support my family. I will certainly be with the team in spirit, as we redefine networking for the digital age.

Please read my guest blog titled “Intent-Based Networking Use Cases At #CLUS17” on Packet Pushers blog. Register for a 1:1 demo or stop by our booth #2925 to request an invitation for our Intent to Party!

5 Secrets Behind Apstra’s Intent-Based Networking Success

Apstra Blog
5 Secrets Behind Apstra’s Intent-Based Networking Success

 Apstra pioneered the use of intent-based reasoning for network operators.  Now, intent-based-everything has become all the rage, with widespread analyst acclaim and lots of vendors jumping on the bandwagon.

Over the past 3+ years in the business, we think we’re getting the hang of what it means to create real value from intent-based technology. We’ve deployed in the world’s largest service providers and enterprises. We have learned from customers in multiple vertical markets including tech, finance, media, insurance, manufacturing, mobility, services, oil and gas, etc. It seems like everybody is engaging and learning to benefit from intent-based network systems.

Schedule a 1:1 meeting and demo with our team at Cisco Live 

Our take-away is that it’s less about the underlying technology, and much more about how it is applied. Here are five ways Apstra has applied intent-based reasoning to networking.

Number 1: Infinite visibility.  By this we mean the ability to define and collect any type of telemetry from thousands of devices on demand. A few lines of code is all it takes. See any data from any device, any vendor, any time, all at once.  Normalize your data for consumption throughout the organization. It sounds a little hyperbolic no matter how we write it, but it’s true.

Number 2: We work with your intent, not ours. Vendors cannot foresee what data you choose to collect. Vendors cannot define the intent model for each metric. Only you can. If our experience makes anything clear, it’s that intent, when baked into a solution designed by a supplier, nearly always reflects only the supplier’s intent. Not yours. Telemetry and intent are not canned things. Expect the telemetry you choose to collect, as well as the intent-based reasoning you apply to it, to change a lot.

3) Multi-dimensional workflow. When you know what’s actually happening in a system, and you know what should be happening, you have the knowledge to confidently operate things. Natural workflows fall directly out of this knowledge; operations, troubleshooting, configuration and inventory management, documentation and compliance, design, etc. When combined, all these workflows form a kind of reference design for everything you do.  We get you started with a lot of it, but again, workflow is yours – not ours (think Salesforce; works out of the box, but continuously customized by customers).

4) Multi-vendor, multi-system solution. Building an intent-based reasoning system to operate a box built by one vendor is just not that interesting. It’s more interesting to use intent to operate a complex system with lots of parts from lots of suppliers. For example, consider a self-driving car; all the intent a car needs is the address of your destination. It doesn’t ask the passenger their intent on how to operate a lot of separate sub-systems like the transmission, steering control, engine or tires. One system should service all types of devices from all vendors.  And as for your network, we don’t know what devices you want to operate, who your selected vendors are, or how you choose to assemble things.  We give you the tools to operate your entire network your way.

5) Respect your legacy as well as the future. Existing equipment and applications do not just go away because of a new telemetry and reasoning strategy.  We need to instrument all the old stuff too.  We need to support old L2 applications, old topologies, and old switches (think IOS, Junos, and all the stuff that you currently support with SNMP). Intent-based operation is never the reason you need to buy something new.  Intent-based reasoning is an important tool to help you operate your complex network, with lots of equipment, both old and new.

So I guess our perspective comes down to this: intent-based reasoning technology is really cool. But value comes from how you apply it, not how you buy it.