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New-Age Networking Predictions for the New Year: Intent-Based Bots

As software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV) and other new-age networking initiatives mature, we'll be taking a look at what's in store for some of the most promising projects in the new year, now examining intent-based networking (IBN) aided by bots.

Although it's been around for a while, IBN was vaulted into the limelight last year when it was embraced by networking kingpin Cisco Systems Inc., who deemed the technique the future of networking.

Jumping on the IBN bandwagon was part of Cisco's larger pivot from a traditional hardware-based company to a software vendor capitalizing on modern software-centric trends like SDN and NFV.

"With this new approach, Cisco is changing the fundamental blueprint for networking with reimagined hardware and the most advanced software," the company said in June. "This shift from hardware-centric to software-driven networking will enable customers to experience a quantum leap in agility, productivity and performance."

After more established players such as Apstra Inc. and Veriflow Systems were quick to welcome Cisco to the IBN party, more innovation in the space was provided just a few weeks ago by another major player, Juniper Networks.

Intent-Based Networking
[Click on image for larger view.] Intent-Based Networking (source: Gartner).

Juniper's approach weds the young-and-growing IBN space with the young-and-growing bots movement -- discrete chunks of software that automate formerly manual tasks. Or, as Juniper put it, its new Juniper Bots will help move the industry closer to the promise of The Self-Driving Network.

Juniper Bots, the company said, encompass a series of new applications that simplify network operations through the translation of intents into automated workflows.

While bots are typically characterized in the industry press as chrome-plated robots (see above article intro graphic) or disembodied personal assistants responding to typed or verbal commands, bots-driven network automation is promising to become a growing trend in the new year.

"Juniper Bots comprise a growing ecosystem of new software applications focused on intent and analytics that automate workflows and break the cycle of complex machine-focused automation tools," Juniper said. "The bots, which leverage both the Contrail and AppFormix platforms, incorporate real-time analytics that are designed to translate higher-level business requirements (the 'what') into automatic configuration changes across the network (the 'how')."

Contrail is Juniper's SDN-enabled management and control software for simplified service delivery, while AppFormix is a new kind of optimization and management software platform for public, private and hybrid clouds.

To help translate the "what" into the automatic "how," Juniper debuted three new bots, which it described thusly:

  • Contrail PeerBot. This automates the traditionally cumbersome process of network peering -- managing multiple Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing and complex policy enforcement -- to simplify policy enforcement and on-demand scaling.
  • Contrail TestBot. This app is part of Juniper's broad effort to help network operators embrace a DevOps approach for Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment, automates the continuous auditing of design, provisioning, and deployment changes in the network.
  • AppFormix HealthBot. This is a machine learning fitness and health tracker for the network that leverages AppFormix to collect real-time network data and glean insight, HealthBot translates troubleshooting, maintenance, and real-time analytics into an intuitive user experience to give network operators actionable insights into the health of the overall network.

"These bots transcend complex machine-focused automation tools," Juniper said on its automation site. "By incorporating real-time analytics and continuously validating business requirements, Juniper Bots quickly analyze current conditions. When the desired intent isn’t being met, they take immediate corrective action. The Bots interpret your high-level business requirements as intents and convert them into the necessary network configuration or appropriate changes across your network infrastructure."

Bots Principles
[Click on image for larger view.]Bots Principles (source: Juniper Networks).

Juniper said its bots offering is based on six foundational principles, as depicted in the above graphic: aligning to a higher layer business intent; contextual automation; historical and predictive multidimensional views; machine learning; deterministic assurance; and continuous resource optimization.

In addition to bots, expect other innovations to come to the IBN space in 2018. Along with Cisco's famed embrace of IBN, the young technology movement was also lauded by research firm Gartner Inc., which said IBN promises to be "the next big thing on the networking horizon."

"Intent-based networking is not a product, or a market," Gartner analyst Andrew Lerner said in a February post announcing new research for IBN. "Instead, it is a piece of networking software that helps to plan, design and implement/operate networks that can improve network availability and agility. Another way to describe it would be lifecycle management software for networking infrastructure."

Another way to describe it might be as one of the most important trends in networking for 2018, sure to be boosted by bots functionality and other new innovations.

Other Predictions:

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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