While there is no true single standard specification for Intent-based Networking Systems, use the term to describe their offerings and the networking community is left to sort of the differences between the reality and the hype. To help bring clarity to the cause, Gartner produced an “Innovation Insight: Intent-Based Networking Systems” paper on the topic, published in February 2017 ID: G00323513. Gartner defined an Intent-based Networking System as one that provides four capabilities:
Translation and Validation – The system takes a higher-level business policy (what) as input from end users and converts it to the necessary network configuration (how). The system then generates and validates the resulting design and configuration for accuracy.
Automated Implementation – The system can configure the appropriate network changes (how) across existing network infrastructure. This is typically done via network automation and/or network orchestration.
Awareness of Network State – The system ingests real-time network status for systems under its administrative control, and is protocol- and transport-agnostic.
Assurance and Dynamic Optimization/Remediation – The system continuously validates (in real-time) that the original business intent of the system is being met, and can take corrective actions (such as blocking traffic, modifying network capacity or generating notifications) when the desired intent is not met.
Most industry coverage on the topic seems to agree on these four main attributes, yet many of the current solutions do not address all four. Also, there is some debate as to “how high” the level of intent should be – is it really a business requirement/policy or is it more specific network requirements that are automatically executed.