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What Is Intent-based Networking?

Intent-based networking (IBN) is a software-enabled network administration architecture that uses artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and network orchestration to configure the network based on business intent.

What Is Intent-based Networking?

IBN is built on the foundations of software-defined networking (SDN), a networking architecture that transitions hardware-centric manually configured networks into programmable, software-based solutions that eliminate the manual effort associated with managing traditional networks.

Both architectures require a network controller that supports network abstraction and serves as a central control point for all network activity. However, IBN goes a step further than SDN, using AI, ML, and network orchestration to combine intelligence with the automation introduced by SDN. This allows network administrators to capture high-level business objectives, translate them into policies, and optimally configure the network to align with business goals.

Using IBN, organizations can perform day-to-day tasks, establish rules, respond to system events, and ensure that business objectives are being met.

How Intent-based Networking Works

An intent-based networking system comprises four primary functions:

Translation and Validation

Translation characterizes business intent into actions the software can perform. Network administrators express the desired network behavior based on high-level business policies and convert them into network configurations. The translation and validation component also verifies whether the system can successfully execute the intent by generating the resulting design and validating it for accuracy.

Automated Implementation

Once a network administrator establishes business intent and approves the policy, the IBN system implements the new policy across the physical and virtual network infrastructure. The system will use network automation and/or network orchestration to enforce business rules and allocate the network resources required to meet the goal of the intent.

Awareness of State

The IBN system performs continuous monitoring and analysis to gather data about the current state of the network. The IBN collects real-time data continuously from the network to identify and mitigate performance issues and network faults.


Using AI, ML, and analytics, the IBN performs ongoing monitoring to maintain the desired network status and report on network performance. The system validates in real time that the original business intent of the system is applied correctly and takes corrective action such as generating notifications, modifying network capacity, or blocking traffic if the desired intent is not being met.

Traditional vs. Intent-based Networking: Differences

Traditional networking is hardware-based. The definition, configuration, monitoring, and management of the network depend largely on the expertise and manual efforts of network administrators. Making changes and upgrades to the network are time-consuming processes, as each change must be applied to each device manually.

Software-defined networking solves many of these problems by separating the control plane of the network from the data plane, adding programmability that allows administrators to control the network from a central server automatically.

IBN builds on top of SDN to create an intelligent networking system using AI, ML, and network orchestration to create, manage, enforce, and validate network policies based on business intention. As a result, administrators can focus on business needs instead of the manual management of the network.

Benefits of Intent-based Networking

Intent-based networking can offer several significant advantages to organizations, including:

Greater Automation

Because IBN uses automation to configure the network, administrators perform fewer manual tasks. When a new policy or business requirement needs to be implemented, network administrators simply need to define the business intent and the IBN will translate it, verify it, and make any necessary adaptations to ensure the desired business intent is met.

Faster Troubleshooting and Remediation

In a traditional network environment, identifying, troubleshooting, and remediating network issues can be time-consuming. The IBN performs continuous monitoring that helps admins identify issues before they escalate. Analytics also help administrators determine and implement the best solution to the issue, as well as give them insight into how to improve the network to prevent similar issues from recurring.

Greater Compliance

Organizations in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, finance, and aerospace, must comply with ever-changing industry regulations and requirements. A breach could result in hefty penalties, a significant loss of financial revenue, and damage to the organization’s reputation.

An IBN makes it easier for network administrators to develop and implement consistent policies across the network. Because it’s continuously monitoring itself, the network remains in compliance with any policies that have been set.

Enhance Security

Besides greater compliance, an IBN also ensures greater network security. Centralized management gives administrators a holistic view of the entire network and enables them to integrate network-wide security policies into all aspects of the network for consistency. Continuous monitoring helps administrators rapidly identify threats and vulnerabilities to prevent escalation across the network.

Improved Analytics

Insight into network performance can help organizations make better decisions. An IBN system is always collecting data about network performance and security threats that can be analyzed to generate actionable insights. Optimized analytics give administrators valuable insights that enable them to improve network security and performance leading to better business outcomes.

Greater Agility

IBN can immediately translate business goals into the optimal network configuration needed to support those goals. Using an IBN, organizations can quickly implement policies that support new business directives and adapt to new opportunities, without the time constraints associated with adding physical infrastructure to the network.

Disadvantages of Intent-based Networking

IBN, however, does have a few disadvantages, including:

Complex Design

An IBN system involves the amalgamation of several environments, operating systems, and network components, making it complex to design, manage, and implement successfully.

Security Metadata Stored in SDN Controllers

Security metadata is stored within the SDN controller, making it harder to send secure communications between controllers, orchestrators, and managed devices. The controller also represents a single point of failure that could lead to loss of control over the network if it becomes compromised.

Existing Tools Must Be Compatible with Centralized Automation

Organizations typically use several vendor tools for managing multiple network implementations and not all are compatible with centralized orchestration. To centralize incompatible tools, organizations may have to consolidate them using virtual network functions (VNF) which allows you to emulate the functions of network hardware but does not present a truly software-defined solution.

When to Use IBN: Use Cases

Though IBN is still an emerging technology, organizations have begun to implement IBN in several scenarios, including data center operations and WAN solutions. Let’s look at a couple of real-world scenarios:

Compliance and Security

Say an organization is responsible for updating and upgrading operating systems across numerous sites. This would benefit from a more efficient way to manage the network, ensure consistent compliance, and respond to security incidents. An IBN would help to automate network tasks such as pushing network configurations to remote locations, improving network reliability and a reduction in the time and resources necessary to manage and monitor the network.

Managing, Monitoring, and Automating Network Infrastructure

Aligning infrastructure across data centers and facilitating data center automation can increase operational efficiency, speed, and insights. An intuitive platform for orchestration and insights, can leverage data center automation to manage, monitor, and orchestrate a network infrastructure from a single operational view.

Simplify Storage Operations with Pure Storage Purity

Software-defined technologies such as intent-based networks, software-defined networking (SDN), and software-defined storage (SDS) enable businesses to leverage programmability and advanced automation to simplify operations, strengthen security, and achieve business objectives. 

Pure Storage® Purity is a scalable, easy-to-use, high-performance SDS solution that helps you unify, protect, and manage all your important business data. Secure by default, Purity offers always-on encryption, protection, and recovery to keep your business running smoothly.

Centralized AI-driven management allows you to monitor, optimize, and analyze storage from a single, unified view and mobilize workloads seamlessly across cloud and on-premises environments.


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