Network Automation... a brave new world?

Network as code. Intent based networking. Network automation. Other than filling our your Buzzword Bingo card, what does this really mean? How can I use this? Is this another fad?

Network Automation... a brave new world?

Network as code.  Intent based networking. Network automation.  Bingo!  Other than filling our your buzzword Bingo card, what does this really mean?  How can I use this?  Is this another fad?

In these articles, I will discuss my journey of understanding about these "buzzwords" and try to articulate where / how they apply to you and I (networking engineers).

The Setup

Before we discuss some of the more technical aspects of these topics we need to be on the same page as to what each of these terms mean.  So let me try to develop a common understanding of these terms the best way I know how, using a car analogy. It was either a car or plumbing :).  

Within the car there are lots of parts.  Each part has a function.  For instance the engine, tires, accelerator, gas tank are all parts of the car that make it go (the components). When you press the accelerator pedal you expect the car to go  (your intent).  In the network there are switches, routers, VLANs, IPs (the components).  When you bring up a browser you expect to get to the Internet (the intent).

There are many parts the make up a car and the network.  Those parts, in and of themselves, are not really useful by themselves.  They have to be configured and installed in just the right way.  When you configure the network devices by hand it is like you are building the car by hand.  When you build the car in a factory assembly line this is like standardizing the network and introducing automation.  In both cases there are discrete steps that are executed in a specific order to produce a desired outcome.

An example closer to home.  Your boss comes to you and says that she has been asked to connect a new centrifugal rotary girder on the factory floor to the network (intent).  You start thinking of all the stuff you need VLAN, IP, firewall rules (components).  

Now how do we go from the components to the intent?  This series of articles will share my journey into this world.  I am not stating that this is the "only" way to do things nor even the best way.  I'm just sharing one way.  In each article I hope to expand on the previous one with the ultimate goal of providing a map to help my fellow network engineers along their journey to network automation.