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Why Cisco’s new intent-based networking could be a big deal

Brandon Butler | June 22, 2017
Intent-driven networking uses machine learning to automatically enforce security policies and maintain network state.

A key component of an IBNS is that it provides mathematical validation that the expressed intent of the network can be and is implemented within the network, and that it has the ability to take real-time action if the desired state of the network is misaligned with the actual state.

An IBNS is, in theory, a software platform that can be agnostic to the hardware that it runs on.

The idea of IBNS has been around for a couple of years, Lerner says, but there have been very few platforms that can enable it. A handful of startups, such as Apstra, Veriflow and Forward Networks have some early components of IBNS in various product offerings. Lerner estimates there are less than 15 intent based-networking platforms in production deployments today, but the number could grow to more than 1,000 by 2020.


What Cisco announced

Now Cisco has jumped into the IBNS market with a series of new software and hardware components that customers can purchase either as an integrated package or separately, with the software available a la carte via subscription. Many of these components are built on Cisco’s Digital Network Architecture (DNA) and will be available in Cisco ONE Software. They include:

image 4 provision 
Cisco's Digital Network Architecture is a central hub for managing policies. Credit: Cisco

 - DNA Center: A new software dashboard where users manage policy creation and provisioning, and get validation that policies are in place (set to be available in August 2017).

- SD-Access: New software that manages automated policy enforcement and network segmentation (set to be available in November 2017).

- Network Data Platform: A new repository that categorizes and correlates network data (set to be available in November 2017).

- Encrypted Traffic Analysis (ETA):Software that analyzes metadata of encrypted traffic to detect vulnerabilities (set to be available in September 2017).

image 1 cat 9k family 
Cisco's new line of Catalyst 9000 switches. Credit: Cisco

- New series of Catalyst 9000 hardware switches, including the Catalyst 9300 and 9500 (available for ordering now) and the 9400 (set to be orderable in July 2017). These switches are meant to be deployed throughout the campus.

Prashanth Shenoy, VP of enterprise network marketing at Cisco, says many of today’s networks were designed for what he calls the Internet-era to run voice, video and data. Businesses now need the network to run mobile, cloud and IoT applications with advanced security. A new network platform is needed to manage the scale of devices connecting to the network, the threats posed to it and the explosion of data generated.


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