Apstra – which specializes in intent-based networking (IBN) – has developed what it says is an objective taxonomy model to help network operators cut through the marketing hype around IBN and get a better understanding of what IBN can accomplish for data center networks at different levels of maturity.
Several vendors are pursuing the IBN space, but performance claims, capabilities and even terminology vary from one vendor to another. Apstra CTO and founder Sasha Ratkovic said the model is intended to “help CTOs and network operators evaluate and differentiate the maturity of IBN solutions with an objective set of criteria, beginning with Level 0 (low maturity/incomplete) offerings going up to Level 3 (mature/complete) offerings which enable companies to leverage full benefits of an IBN approach.”
Apstra’s lBN model breaks down like this:
Level 0 IBN: Basic automation
These offerings have the ability to:
- Generate device configurations from declarative specifications. For example: scripts running Ansible modules or other declarative libraries such as NAPALM.
- Support a heterogeneous infrastructure.
- Ingest real-time network status in a protocol- and transport-agnostic way.
At this level there is no presence of a single source of truth, which is a fundamental aspect of a mature IBN implementation, as it enables reasoning whether or not the intent has been met.
Level 1 IBN: Single source of truth
An implementation classified as Level 1 implements a single source of truth containing the intent and the network operational state. It contains data and state artifacts related to all aspects of a network service lifecycle: design, build, deploy, and validate. Level 1 can give you answers to important questions about the state of your intent and your infrastructure.
Level 2 IBN: Real-time change validation
Building on top of Level 1, Level 2 IBN solution enables you to ask the right questions, at the right time to help assess the impact of business rule or policy changes, as well as the operational status changes and failures in real time.
Level 3 IBN
The key question here is: does the IBN solution validate and close the loop between the intent and operational state by providing observability, and deliver corrective actions on a path to self-operating networks? This step is impossible to tackle if one has not built solid foundations in Levels 2 and 3, Apstra says.