The company says it’s setting up for an intent-based future with the release of FortiOS 5.6, announced today at Accelerate, the company’s annual partner conference in Las Vegas.
Specifically, FortiOS 5.6 tunes the company’s Security Fabric for intent-based decision making. A Fortinet blog stresses the software’s powers of visibility and awareness; the OS can now grab real-time updates from network systems so that it can make the proper automated changes when necessary.
Details of what Fortinet plans to do with these capabilities are scarce so far. But tapping into intent-based networking could prepare Fortinet to serve new types of infrastructure.
“Intent” refers to commanding the network by telling it the end result you want. It’s then up to the network elements to configure themselves to make that happen. This is in contrast to traditional networking, where operators and admins control the equipment through specific commands — “connect this port to that port,” for instance.
It’s not a new idea. Cisco, for example, implemented it with its Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) in 2014, although the intent-driven piece — the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) — is optional.
Ideally, an intent-driven network (you could also call it a policy-based network) would be more automated, and the commands issued — the actual intent — wouldn’t change from one network domain to another. The latter factor could become useful as enterprises start to spread workloads among multiple public and private clouds.