Move to software-defined networking for speed and agility

By Grant Donald,
Networking Technology Director, NTT Ltd.

Digital transformation has and continues to dramatically change how information communications technology (ICT) services across all industries are being delivered to clients. This transformation has added new technology and types of endpoints, increased network traffic and driven more applications to the cloud.

Overcoming operational challenges

Increased performance and availability requirements - which are needed to remain competitive - continue to increase, while what is demanded of the network due to the proliferation of devices, increased traffic and cloud-based application growth continues to climb exponentially.

Operations management teams face increased pressure to reduce cost while they struggle to keep up with business to:

  • accelerate innovation
  • deliver an exceptional end-to-end user experience
  • ensure consistency in meeting policy and security standards

Intent-based networking (IBN), software-defined networking (SDN), and centralized network management

Software-defined networking (SDN) uses software to configure device-to-device networking. Intent-based networking (IBN) adds artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities that provide the automation needed to achieve greater efficiency and predictability in network operations administration and management. IBN creates optimal and automatic network performance configurations based on business intent and then develops customized networking baselines to define the optimal network state. These baselines are then used to monitor the network to identify network performance issues faster, provide continuous verification and automate corrective action where feasible.

IBN reduces the complexity of managing and enforcing network policies. This provides a vendor-agnostic method to understand, monitor, configure and administer all devices and network interactions.


Is it worth the effort to change?

IT operations leaders must always consider the cost of change in their operation against the value the change will deliver. The level of effort in changing procedures, modifying the operational environment and reskilling staff is always concerning and not without its own set of challenges.

Intent-based networking, with the centralization of network management, delivers immediate benefits that greatly surpass the change effort and enable you to be ready for the future which will require even more agility, greater scale and higher performance. Many industry analysts believe that software-defined networking with intent-based networking features will be a future necessity in order to manage and administer the network complexity associated with multiple public clouds, multiple campus environments and connectivity to an even broader array of IoT and edge devices.


The value of IBN with centralized network management

The implementation of intent-based networking with centralized access management delivers improved quality of service, lowers operating costs, and takes much of the complexity out of network management.

Lowers cost by improving operational efficiency

Intent-based networking translates a business-aligned policy into the desired network state by using centralized network orchestration software to automatically implement policy-based configurations consistently across the network.

Intent-based networking monitors, identifies and reacts in real time to changing network conditions. Business-aligned policies can be based on job roles, device function and application requirements. Intent-based policies are stated in terms of what the network should do rather than how it should be done. Intent-based policies can also include performance requirements such as availability and latency.

Manual methods to onboard devices, configure ports set-up and implement access control lists are no longer feasible. 70% of policy violations are due to human error. Policy violations introduce security risks and create service issues. Gartner has reported that 80% of all service incidents are caused by planned and unplanned changes.

Network management simply can’t keep up with the volume of change by continuing to add additional networking staff. Legacy centralized change management processes can't adequately respond to maintain the quality of service and respond to new users and network additions. Automating the deployment, monitoring, verification and remediation of policy configuration lowers costs by:

  • accelerating the policy activation and verification processes by automating network changes for 1,000s of devices
  • reduces the human error associated with the traditional change and configuration deployment practices
  • simplifies the process of adding and refreshing network resources
  • caps or reduces the number of skilled staff required for network management
  • improving the Quality of Service

Network telemetry and end-to-end software-defined network fabrics provide detailed visibility into the real-time user experience. Using AI and ML, IBN systems can also determine the best way to implement the desired network state and can take automated corrective action to maintain it.

These advances:

  • improve optimization of network traffic flow
  • lessen time to react to changes needed to deliver the level of service (LOS) required to achieve the customer experiences expected
  • reduce network noise and enable faster issue identification and resolution

The result is higher availability and improved network performance.

Reduced business risk through improved policy compliance

Security attacks are both more numerous and more sophisticated than before. Network weak points represent prime territory for infiltration. Endpoint devices including laptops, smartphones, cameras, sensors, machines, robots, meters and IoT devices continue to proliferate unabated. Each of these devices presents a potential security threat if policies are not effectively and consistently applied and maintained.

Automation of policy deployment and continuous verification of compliance improves security from the edge to the cloud. Policy compliance helps secure application traffic over the internet. IBN with centralized access control lowers the risk of unsecured elements or unauthorized users accessing the network.

Simplifies the complexity of network management

Intent-based networking with centralized network access enables IT to treat the network as an integrated whole and allows you to take advantage of the true meaning of software-defined networking. Today and tomorrow’s network complexity and the rapidity of change require a more dynamic approach to building, deploying and managing the network environment.

With IBN, all users, devices and connected things are recognized automatically. The best network path to improve performance is automatically defined. Network availability is improved by lowering unplanned downtime. Deployment and verification of policies across the network and all access points is assured and compliance maintained. Managing performance, achieving business SLAs and optimizing costs all become less challenging.


Realize the advantages of IBN and centralized access

Overcome your network challenges today and prepare for an even more challenging future by adding intent-based networking and centralized access to software-defined networking. Lower your operating cost, improve the efficiency of network administration and deliver better network performance.

Take the next step

Implement a roadmap to transition to software-defined networking and capture the full value of what you have today and will invest in tomorrow. With a full suite of services, we can help you plan your journey to software-defined and ease your transition to a new way of operating and monitoring your network.

Grant Donald

Grant Donald

Networking Technology Director, NTT Ltd.


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