Intent-based networking and closed-loop automation are central topics at Digital Transformation World 2022. Service providers and their suppliers, like Intraway, are now working through the gritty details to bring these concepts to life. But while sorting the details, it can become easy to forget why we care at all about making intent-based networking happen and how it changes the way we, as an industry, think about provisioning, activation, and orchestration.
Why we care about intent
The basic idea behind intent is to tackle escalating network complexity, born of both technical maturity and the transition of networks from physical to virtual to cloud native. Whereas historically, telecommunications networks have been designed around physical architectures with rigidly defined service provisioning processes, intent-based networking flips this model on its head.
Rather than provisioning services procedurally, intent-based networking allows automated agents within an intent manager to translate the requirements of a service into the best way to deliver it at that moment, depending on available resources and factors like latency, capacity, security, and cost. In theory, this should make networks far more automated, dynamic, and responsive and ultimately able to respond to things like natural language requests for services which are then translated into requirements, which determine intents, and then can be provisioned as services and self-healed if things go wrong.
Service providers are motivated to pursue this type of network automation because it can impact both cost and revenue positively. With intent-based networking, the idea is to optimize network resources at every step. A greater and more efficient network utilization rate can translate directly into reduced capital expenses for service providers because over-provisioning the network to account for peak traffic periods is no longer necessary. At the same time, as service providers design and roll out new services, they can focus more on differentiation and customer experience and substantially less on how to deliver the service over the network, which the intent-based network should accommodate on its own.
At the very center of this concept is the ability to provision, activate and orchestrate services in real-time to execute on requests coming from intent-based systems. This is not something legacy provisioning systems were ever designed to do. The paradigm is, in fact, entirely changed. As a result, there is not an opportunity to simply augment or expand a legacy provisioning system. Change must occur.
Five ways intent changes provisioning
Delivering intent-based networking and closed-loop automation requires a new approach because of the extreme degree of change involved. In fact, here are just five of the major changes that happen to provisioning, activation, and orchestration as intent-based networks enter the environment.
- In the intent-based world, or more specifically a world where both intent-based and traditional networks operate in parallel, provisioning must be able to live in each domain – both deterministic and non-deterministic – rather than only in the deterministic domain.
- Provisioning systems must be able to communicate with and automate processes relating to both intent-based and traditional networks. It would not make sense for these to remain separate as services can and likely will need to traverse both domains.
- Activation must be executed across physical devices, virtualized network functions, and cloud-native network functions. It has suddenly become a broader and more sophisticated functional area, especially as the industry moves away from complex protocols to API-based integration.
- For intent-based domains, provisioning systems must be rapidly configurable to support changing service models and changes in how intent-based systems respond to service requests. Shifting to configurable, cloud-native, low-code or no-code models makes sense here.
- Orchestration must be or become part of the provisioning-activation equation because it is required in dynamic and cloud-native networks, such as standalone 5G, and in any virtualized or cloud-native network or data center. The ability to work with other types of orchestrators is also an important consideration.
Finally, closed-loop automation further emphasizes the need for real-time provisioning because the network is meant to act and respond dynamically as network conditions and resource availability changes. To ultimately deliver a seamless customer experience where a complex service request is made and fulfilled immediately without the customer experiencing trouble, intent-based network automation will be necessary. This is why service providers and suppliers like Intraway care to work through the enormous complexity required to provision, activate, and orchestrate it all while reducing capital expenses and giving service providers new paths to service innovation and revenue growth.
For a closer look at provisioning in an intent-based network environment, please have a look at TM Forum’s Intent-based Autonomous Networks catalyst, where Intraway provides the core provisioning, activation, and orchestration capabilities at the heart of this developing solution.