Jun 22, 2017

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.


Mansour Karam

President, Founder