Programming Intent: IT Teams Take a Shortcut to Better Security

In today’s fast paced business world, organizations have been forced to become more proactive and faster to react to their customers’ requests. Despite this shift to a more agile business mindset, IT and security teams have been slow to catch up. 

Today, these teams are often forced into a no-win scenario. They are constantly critiqued about how fast they can deploy their organizations’ applications, features and network augmentations, while also making sure the data is secure from an increasingly threatening landscape. This is much harder to manage than one might think.  

When rolling out a new feature or application to the cloud, the time table that ensures security and segmentation complement one another often spans from days to weeks. But it’s all worth it: Syncing security and communication between applications plays a major factor in ensuring that unauthorized access will not occur by malicious actors.

To refrain from adding new vulnerabilities with each new feature, teams will run through hundreds of different in-house security checkpoints before deploying on corporate servers. Ignoring any of these policy rules can create major security and networking risks for IT and security teams, even if it means faster deployment and pleased superiors.

Instead of looking to cut corners on security policies or worse – build a burdensome and ever-growing security checklist – IT teams need to be more communicative about the different challenges they encounter when working on a project. The moment they have an idea of what their intent is for deployment, IT teams need to know how to communicate this and translate it into automated changes that occur on the network level. This is where intent-based networking comes into place.

What is Intent-Based Networking?

       Image Credit: Cisco, 2018

Intent-based networking is the idea that IT teams need to simply explain what their intentions are and devise how the network can easily translate their intent into policy. This means creating suitable configuration settings across the network environment while relying on the use of automation. 

Until recently, this task required hours of manual effort by network engineers to modify each server and device that would be affected by each change. Intent-based networking increases the speed at which implementations happen and leverage machine learning and AI to make sure that the newly deployed applications are behaving as intended.
What makes intent-based networking crucial for agile IT teams is when automated policies fail. 

Intent-based network systems then recognize the failure and notify the networking team to suggest an action that will aid the reconfiguration process, once more ensuring the networks are compliant with the organization’s policies. 

While intent-based networking is still being designed and adopted by different organizations, the roots for intent-based networking are in front of our eyes. Early adopters of Software-Defined networking are already familiar with automated network access policies, for example, and more will soon see the benefits of intent-based networking architecture.

To deliver proper intent-based networking, organizations must include these three key elements:

Intent: The first and most important element is intent. In simple terms the “intent” is what you want to accomplish, it’s what you want the objective or outcome to be. The intent is communicated via the network system, which translates it into a policy that can be implemented across the network no matter which infrastructure is deployed. Intent is therefore itself supported by technology and prearranged processes. The idea is to simplify all operations and compliance conditions into policies that define user access level and security while also providing a more continuous understanding of the network. 

Automation: Once IT teams have established their intent and policies, it’s key to success to automate all processes if possible. By adopting automation network teams save time when implementing current and future changes that are needed on the network. As organizations grow in the number of employees and other new factors (IoT, remote workers and the cloud), automation will be a vocal element to help network admins reach the business and security demands of the organization.

Assurance: The last element but possibly the most crucial is the ability to assure that services put in place are working. Assurance begins with complete network visibility throughout the network and connected endpoints. The intent and visibility shouldn’t be only limited to devices but in fact should provide complete visibility of the user’s interactions with machines, applications on the cloud and the user’s location. 

The intent-based networking system will need to provide network-wide interactions and offer the option for predicting the results of changes with the intent and policies in place. To achieve this network environment, machine learning and AI are required. By enforcing real-time detection in the network your organization will be able to mitigate risks in a fraction of the time. 

Moving Forward with Intent-Based Networking 

As the network expands and more sophisticated security risks evolve, the importance of adopting a more agile intent-based network will become more clear for organizations. It will offer IT teams a system that allows them to detect and respond to incoming threats on the network while leaning on responsive policies that will provide another layer of defense versus attacks.

Most importantly to executives, intent-based network security in place provides organizations the opportunity to invest their attention in more pressing business needs, while being able to assume that network applications are being maintained and managed automatically. Total forward momentum on the business end, without leaving security behind.