Bringing the Future of Intent-Based Networking to ONUG 2018

As reliance on SaaS applications increases and workloads move to the cloud, Wide Area Network (WAN) requirements increase in scope and are top of mind for many businesses and thought leaders responsible for their digital transformation strategy. Rather than trying to fix each element of their network architecture individually, organizations are beginning to look at their networks more holistically. While there has been a lot of focus on SD-WAN as a primary driver of WAN modernization, at Cisco we believe that it’s just one critical piece of a more fundamental redesign of network architecture: Intent-Based Networking. We’re excited to bring our work and philosophy surrounding Intent-Based Networking to ONUG 2018.

Problems with the Traditional Configuration

For some time, WAN architectures have remained mostly static. Users at branch offices accessing the internet connect to the WAN and then their data goes to a data center, typically where a security device is located, before going out to the internet. While running everything through a central data center made sense in a pre-cloud context, in the modern world of high-volume SaaS interactions and IaaS/PaaS, this classic configuration experiences bandwidth restrictions and slower performance, and results in higher costs and a poor user experience. As users and business needs change, this configuration can take time to adjust, often leading to delays and errors.


Putting SD-WAN in a New Context

We see SD-WAN as being part of our overall Cisco WAN architecture. At this point in the development of the industry space, Cisco has seen the market evolve in such a way that businesses are needing other network and security services in addition to SD-WAN. We wanted to look beyond SD-WAN to the future and develop a more comprehensive outlook for the WAN in the digital era. We call this more complete and fundamental solution Intent-Based Networking. But, how do we define it? What does it mean for a WAN?

Understanding the Intent-Based WAN

Instead of driving all traffic and data through a central data center, Intent-Based WAN manages five critical elements before porting the information to the correct end-point, whether a data center, the public cloud, a SaaS application like Salesforce, or the Internet at large. These five key functions are Transport Independence, End-Point Flexibility, Network Services, Analytics and Assurance, and On-Premise or Cloud Management. By managing the network with intent, you can securely connect any user to the corresponding application with the correct bandwidth, flexibility, with the best user experience – every time. The real value, here, is moving beyond viewing the network as routing, switching, wireless to Campus, WAN, Data Center and Cloud – instead it’s a broader strategy to revamp the entire network portfolio.


Journey to Intent-Based WAN

Moving to a modernized, highly adaptable configuration is a substantial process, but can be characterized by five critical steps.

  • Centralized Management: Before anything else, simplify the WAN for operational savings, better visibility, and faster deployments.
  • Secure Connectivity: Lower WAN costs with Hybrid or SD-WAN with integrated security and intelligent path control.
  • Policy-Based Automaton: Optimize user experience and cloud access with direct internet access and application aware policies.
  • Analytics and Assurance: Reduce operational costs and optimize application performance with predictive and self-healing capabilities.
  • Intent-Based WAN: Securely connect any user, device or thing to any application, with the best user experience. Constantly learning, adapting, and protecting.

A lot of businesses might find themselves in the early stages of this journey but having the right platform and strategy can help minimize the impact to your business as your WAN needs evolve. There’s also lot of discussion of artificial intelligence in the space, and the future is exciting – what will Analytics and Assurance really mean for the industry? At Cisco, we’re excited to explore this at ONUG and beyond.

Why is Intent-Based Networking Important?

For many companies today, the WAN is not very agile, it’s costly to maintain, and it is slowing down cloud applications. Modern businesses want to move workloads to the clouds like AWS and Azure as they deploy new business applications and want to be ready to implement powerful new SaaS applications. But simultaneously they want to simplify their WAN and make it easier to use, provide stronger security, and to improve the user experience.

Current WAN architecture is not really built for the cloud, so we need to shift toward intent-based networking and architect the WAN with the cloud in mind!

Intent-Based Networking at ONUG

At Cisco, we see within ONUG a community that’s focused on WAN and driving thought leadership with a more customer-oriented approach. It’s a special congregation of thought leaders that can start to develop new ideas in the space. Between IT Infrastructure leaders, Network Engineering experts, CIO professionals, and more, the ONUG Community is really a source of value for Cisco and all the members of our team. We’re excited to discuss Intent-Based Networking, to receive feedback and input from leaders in this area, and to work together to drive more efficient, more effective network organization through 2018 and beyond!

Author's Bio

Kiran Ghodgaonkar

Senior Product Marketing Manager, Cisco Systems