Intent OSS

When you hire somebody to cut your lawn, you don’t give them a list of all the blades of grass in your yard and the length to cut each one to (prescription), you tell them to make it look nice (intent) and they figure out the rest. Intent-based networking emphasizes the “cut my lawn” interface and moving away from the “industry-standard CLI” model which has been the traditional model. Once the description of what is needed is separated from the details of how it’s implemented, there are many benefits…”
David Lenrow
, here in this interesting article.

In an article last week I posed the question of how the concept of anomalytics (currently being proposed for network security purposes) could apply to the OSS of the future. I also promised to discuss Intent Networking.

Whilst I’d long been familiar with the concept of network policies, Intent Networking is a term I’ve only recently heard of. The analogy in David Lenrow’s article above perfectly describes the way in which OSS too must find a way of abstracting itself from the increasing complexity of virtual networking. I definitely recommend having a read of the full article.

David is the chair of the ONF Northbound Working Group and recently hosted the Intent-based Summit, as discussed in Marc Cohn’s article on Intent-based Networking here. Marc also flagged the passing of the proposal to commence work on the Network Intent Composition (NIC), which also provides interesting reading.

As David describes, “Intent doesn’t change as a result of a link going down, a server crashing, changing cloud providers, changing switch vendors, upgrading firmware or any other change to the infrastructure.”

Part of the complexity of current OSS is that they not only try to manage each of these events, but also cross-link them so that the full chain can be traced to identify root cause and service impact. Siloes of information are relatively easy to construct and maintain. It’s the cross-domain, cross-linking of objects/data that quickly builds overall system complexity.

I suspect that to reduce overall complexity, the OSS of the future will manage each of those types of events (and many more of course) as unlinked silos, whilst intent-based management at another layer of the OSS will ensure reliable services for customers through the use of clustered infrastructure. Anomalytics or similar would be the key to determining whether a service is performing as expected and if not, policy / intent helps to direct changes to the infrastructure cloud to bring the service back within expected operating ranges.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Ryan,
    Like yourself I’ve looked at network policy definition standards over time, but have seen some models that have rivalled the complexity of the items they were seeking to manage! Of course, it’s inherently a challenging space – it will be quite interesting to watch the Network Intent Composition project (I hadn’t heard of it), it seems to have a good level of major vendor support so far – Evan

  2. Hi Evan

    Yes, it will be interesting to see what headway the project manages to make on their challenging goals!

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