White Paper: Intent-Based Networking Taxonomy


The response to the question “How is one Intent-Based Networking offering different than the others?” typically sounds subjective, descriptive, and open to interpretation. What is needed is a tangible, objective, and fact-based nomenclature that can help you rationalize the maturity of Intent-Based Networking solutions. Using this nomenclature, we should be able to map Intent-Based Networking solutions to a specific maturity level, starting with Level 0 (low maturity/incomplete) up to Level 3 which enables a fully capable Intent-Based Networking solution (mature/complete).

Apstra introduced the notion of Intent-Based Networking and Self-Operating Networks™ in June of 2016, and in our blog “Intent Based Networking: What Is It” we provided a definition of Intent-Based Networking, listing capabilities that a complete Intent-Based Networking system needs to provide. The goal is to categorize maturity levels of various Intent-Based Networking implementations and enable network operators to cut through the marketing hype and make sound buying decisions. With that in mind, we introduce the Intent-Based Networking maturity levels.

Level 0 | Intent-Based Networking

Basic Automation

As Intent-Based Networking matures it is expected that there will be early implementations that do not have all of the required capabilities implemented. Capabilities that may be present in these Level 0 systems include the ability to:

  1. 1. Generate device configurations from declarative specifications. For example: scripts running Ansible modules or other declarative libraries such as NAPALM.
  2. 2. Support a heterogeneous infrastructure.
  3. 3. Ingest real-time network status in a protocol-agnostic and transport-agnostic way.

The main capability missing at Level 0, which is a requirement for the next level, is the presence of a single source of truth that contains both intent and operational network state. This is the key requirement that enables reasoning as to whether or not the intent has been met and is therefore a fundamental aspect of a mature Intent-Based Networking implementation. Most Intent-Based Networking solutions today are Level 0.