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Allan Langfield

Executive Director, Product Management, ActiveCore at Comcast Business

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What’s Next for Virtualization and Intent-Based Networking

August 01, 2018

With digital transformation top-of-mind for every organization, having a modern, smart network and IT infrastructure is essential.

The future of virtualization is here. We’re virtualizing networks—routers, firewalls, switches—with software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) technologies that are enabling software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) to replace traditional hardware-based infrastructures.

Today’s adoption of SDN and SD-WAN is driving the networking industry to a virtualized state, eliminating or significantly reducing capital and labor intensive, vendor-locked hardware.  With SD-WAN, we are delivering impressive cost efficiencies and centralized network solutions—virtualized solutions—that scale and evolve as customer needs change.

SDN and NFV have moved beyond the data center and into the mainstream, enabling virtualization and the many benefits it provides.  Now people are talking about intent-based networking and how it will shape the future of virtualization.  At Comcast Business, we’re already incorporating its concepts into our ActiveCoreSM SDN platform.

With intent-based networking, a network administrator can define a desired state of the network and have automated network orchestration software implement those policies to create smarter, more agile and available networks.  For example, intent-based networking can translate the intent, “video should always be the highest network priority,” into a correlating router configuration.  It elevates awareness of the network state from utilization and availability to how it’s being used, which applications are peaking consumption and even offers the ability to adjust traffic accordingly.  Intent-based networking can also deliver real time benefits, such as alerting network administrators to usage at specific sites, and further identifying specific drivers behind network events, such as high bandwidth consumption or the probability of an attack.

This sort of powerful, flexible and intelligent automation, correlation and integration of services is already richly present in the Comcast Business ActiveCore SDN platform and SD-WAN offerings.  In our SDN platform, it’s the orchestration layer that powers the tenets of intent-based networking, to perform the automation and correlation functions, based on rules established by the customer.

Virtualization enables the move from hardware based network services to software based delivery.  It is the concept of an intent-based networking approach combined with the power of SDN technology—all manifested through orchestration—that is the game changer.  Orchestration enables a software defined platform to understand and manage multiple services across the network, allowing us to eliminate service silos and vendor dependence, while delivering unprecedented network visibility and transparency for our customers.

Today, our SD-WAN customers can intelligently monitor network paths and make changes in real time for functions such as optimal path traffic steering and failover management.  They can see if there’s extremely high utilization at a given site, what’s driving it, and they can implement policies directing how they want their network traffic handled during failure or congestion.

Within the next three to five years, artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to drive the next level of intuitive networks.  These maturing technologies will provide unprecedented automated and intuitive capabilities to advance our already smart networks even further in their capabilities to assess events in real time and react appropriately.

These are exciting times for our customers who rely on networks at the heart of their businesses.  With digital transformation top-of-mind for every organization, having a modern, smart network and IT infrastructure is essential.  Yet, regardless of how smart and automated networks and businesses become, it’s important that we never lose sight of the human element.  Smart people will always be required to ensure that new technologies are implemented responsibly and in ways that will deliver desired business needs and outcomes.  And that sort of intelligence is what’s driving the future of virtualization.

This article originally appeared on SDxCentral, download the The Future of Virtualization eBrief to learn more.

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