Cisco brings intent-based networks to the data center

When the company unveiled its intent-based network system (IBNS) solution at its “Network. Intuitive.” event in San Francisco last year, that version focused on bringing the concept of a “self-driving” network to the enterprise campus and was dependent on customers having the new Catalyst 9000 switches. Cisco’s solution works as a closed-loop system where the data from the network is collected and then analyzed to turn intent into commands that can be orchestrated.

To accomplish that, Cisco’s IBNS requires two components: translation to capture intent, translate it into policy, and check integrity, and activation to orchestrate the policies and configure the systems.

The new third leg – assurance, which constantly verifies configurations — looks for insights and takes corrective action. While this is being rolled out as part of the data center IBNS release, I’m sure assurance will also be part of the campus solutions, as well. This is the component that turns an automated system into and autonomous one.

However, the data center is where assurance is badly needed. It’s the place that has all the big enterprise applications, private clouds and company data. Campus outages are certainly no fun, but the stakes are so much higher in the data center. Because of the importance of the data center, when things go awry, network professionals often find themselves in firefighting mode. Changes are made on the fly and not documented, and configurations are often out of compliance, which can lead to bigger problems in the future, such as an inability to fully understand if the current state of the network meets the intent of the policies.

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