In telecommunications, the term 'intent-based' is frequently used. This concept is most commonly associated with cloud networking, autonomous networks, 5G, and the Internet of Things (IoT). It refers to the future of network management, known as 'Intent-Based Networking' (IBN) or 'Intent-Based Provisioning'.
Intent-Based Networking: Simplifying Network Operations and Automation
TM Forum addresses this area with the Intent Common Model and the recently released Intent Management API, allowing intents to be expressed in a specific ontology language. If you follow telecommunications blogs and articles by IT professionals, you'll likely come across this buzzword.
Many big telecommunications companies, communication operators, and market vendors adopt and standardize hyped technologies. However, it's important to consider the impact of these advancements on smaller and medium-sized retail, wholesale, and B2B fixed-line fiber operators. Intent-based networking is a familiar concept cloud companies use to address scalability and elasticity issues with large-scale cloud deployments. Kubernetes is a well-known and widely deployed intent-driven system.
An intent-driven network is a contemporary way of operating and automating a network that guarantees it remains in its intended state. This is achieved through a closed-loop system that monitors the network's performance and behavior and automatically adjusts it to ensure it remains in its intended state.
The loop in question receives input from a user via a graphical user interface (GUI) or processes within an operator's Business Support System/Operation Support System (BSS/OSS). Instead of an explicit set of parameters, this input is described as 'intents.' In this context, 'intent' represents the 'what' and not the exact 'how.' This new approach simplifies the launch of new network services, making it faster and more straightforward than traditional methods of describing and configuring network services.
For example, if a customer requests a direct connection between two locations, the "intent object" provides information about a tunnel connecting points A and B, along with some general guidelines such as the desired speed and level of security. However, it does not include specific details about the configuration, the number of devices required, or how BGP configurations are applied.
"The concept of intent-based networking simplifies network operations and automation, ensuring that the network remains in its intended state, and streamlining the launch of new network services."
Ulf Engstrand, Senior Product Manager
Simplifying FTTx Service Upgrades: Leveraging the Power of Intents for Seamless Operator Empowerment
Operators can derive advantages when providing FTTx services to households and small businesses using intents within their BSS/OSS solution. For instance, a typical service will have a specific 'intended' speed, Quality of Service (QoS), and Service Level Agreement (SLA).
The product and service specifications catalog can be defined using sets of 'features' that can be turned 'on' or 'off.' SLA levels can be defined as distinct options, such as Standard, High, and Premium, each corresponding to a minimum acceptable transfer rate, latency, and service uptime.
The order orchestration, automation, and provisioning platform processes this information as a set of intents, configuring the service to meet the desired state. When the same customer requests a service upgrade, the system should intelligently transition from the current state to the new one with minimal disruption to the customer's services.
Simplifying Automation and Upgrades
It is important for an automation platform to be intelligent enough to determine what needs to be done to achieve objectives without the need for a network engineer to specify exact sequences of commands. Traditionally, complex orchestration flows with predefined conditional executions of various paths have been used in BSS/OSS solutions, resulting in complete disconnections of existing services during upgrades, followed by new service connections.
For large telecommunication companies deploying 5G and IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) plays a crucial role in this process. The network state constantly changes, with millions of devices and elements appearing, moving, and disappearing. This is where the assurance aspect of IBN becomes essential, allowing the system to validate that the network is functioning as intended. While the complexity may exceed the requirements of running a medium-sized fiber network with residential and small business customers, the concept of abstraction between the BSS/OSS solution's configuration of elements and the network remains valuable.
Using an intent-based approach in the order orchestration and provisioning layers offers several key benefits:
Moving towards an intent-based approach implies that network engineers no longer have to configure a set of commands in a fixed sequence. Instead, they can work with high-level models and business policies. This simplifies the configuration process and reduces the chances of human errors. Users can express their intent across multiple layers without specifying each detailed step. The system can automatically translate high-level intents provided within the BSS/OSS into specific network provisioning operations by utilizing declarative models. This automation ensures consistency and quality of product, service, and resource configurations.
By using declarative intent-based configuration, the process of orchestrating orders can become less complex. This approach separates the business logic governing the order from the technical details of network configuration. As a result, it becomes easier to manage complex services and make changes and updates. Additionally, this approach makes it possible to define business rules for provisioning new products and services separately from the technical details of network configuration. This approach also promotes the reuse of orchestration flows. Once an intent is defined and tested, it can be used for similar scenarios, saving time and ensuring consistency and reliability in service delivery.
Faster Onboarding of New Products and Services
An intent-based approach can speed up the introduction of new products and services. Engineers can specify new offerings' intent and important properties, and the system can promptly translate them into the required network configurations. This fast turnaround time is crucial for network operators and service providers who want to remain competitive
Simplifying Network Configuration with an Intent-Based Approach
Netadmin Systems has introduced an intent-based approach to simplify the process of introducing and managing products, services, and resources in a BSS/OSS solution. This approach utilizes technologies like NETCONF/YANG to streamline network configuration while enabling monitoring of network element states, which is essential for responding to large-scale changes.
TM Forum standards provide valuable insights into implementing intents at the service and resource order orchestration levels. The concept of 'features' in these standards is particularly useful. NETCONF/YANG plays a crucial role in translating intent into actual configurations. We are committed to further enhancing our capabilities in these domains as we develop our next-generation order orchestration solutions.
Embracing an intent-based approach in the fiber operator industry can unlock numerous benefits. Fiber operators can streamline their network provisioning processes by simplifying configuration, leveraging layer, vendor, and technology abstraction, promoting flow reusability, and enabling faster onboarding of new products and services.
With the advancements in technologies like NETCONF/YANG and the adoption of industry standards such as TM Forum's concept of 'features,' fiber operators can stay competitive and meet the evolving needs of their customers.