At a high-level intent-based networking means that network operators just tell the network how they want it to run, and it will comply. The goal is to remove a lot of manual tasks so network operators can focus on other things.
In the IoT area specifically, Cisco is using intent-based networking to rework IoT networks, which have traditionally been very manual, closed systems. According to Prashanth Shenoy, vice president of marketing, enterprise networking, and mobility at Cisco, that means using concepts like software-defined networking (SDN) and automation to gather existing data that is collected by IoT devices and translate that data into “actionable items.”
Shenoy notes that the number of IoT devices on networks is growing rapidly, and enterprises need to be able to handle thousands of devices. “The ratio of IT people to devices is expected to increase from 1 to 1,000 to 1 to 100,000 in just a couple of years,” he said.
Cisco is working on three areas in IoT. The first is an Identity Service Engine (ISE) software that will help enterprises recognize devices when those devices connect to the network, and report detailed information about those devices such as the manufacturer, model number, and what software is installed on the device. In the latest ISE upgrade, Cisco said it has doubled the number of IoT device and user device groups that can be classified and identified including those that use industrial protocols like BACNet, Profinet, CIP, and Modbus. The ISE 2.4 software is available today.
The second area is software-defined access (SD-Access), which Cisco is extending to enterprises with distribution centers, manufacturing plants, or warehouses. SD-Access is basically a new model for network administrators to use to automate access and management of devices. According to Shenoy, an IoT gateway agency will take information from devices and create a set of profiles. Those profiles determine what device gets access to what information. SD-Access then takes those profiles and matches them with users. “With the click of a button policy gets enforced across the network,” Shenoy said. “You can do micro-segmentation of the network.”
SD-Access combined with the latest release of Cisco’s DNA software, which will be available early next month, will support industrial Ethernet switches, which means that enterprises with distribution centers, warehouses, or manufacturing plants, will be able to use SD-Access to extend their network policies across outdoor areas without additional overhead.
And finally, Cisco said it is incorporating its cloud-based service called Operational Insights into the IoT realm so that companies can use location analytics to track assets and IoT devices in addition to collecting data. This basically means that the IoT network can notify personnel to take specific actions at certain times based upon the location of the sensors. Shenoy said that is a critical tool for industries like healthcare where workers need to keep track of things like portable X-ray machines. Operational Insights is available today.