It’s taken a while, but it looks like the true meaning of “intent” is finally being recognised. 

Intent is both a “shiny object” – a buzzword du jour – but also a critically important concept and best practice. Appledore have been advocates of the basic idea since long before “intent” became a buzzword.  Back then, we were advocating “policy driven orchestration, based on intended outcome and informed by context”.  This was in 2015-16.

Fast forward to 2019 and Appledore released a pair of major research reports on Intent – what it is, why it is, where it resides and what the state of the art was (or was not). By then, we had combined the term “Intent” with our earlier advocacy of rules, policies, search algorithms and other methods of implementing a loosely defined objective (intent) with current specifics (context) to implement a workload, service or derivative combination.  I simplified this in a report to “Intent informed by Context”.

Imagine my surprise, and my satisfaction, as I scanned the 2020 Cisco Annual Report.  In his list of guiding principles, Chuck Robbins listed #1 “Intent Informed by Context”.  Either great minds think alike, or I have a noted reader :-).  I’ll take either.

Our intent-based networking platform is designed to be intelligent, highly secure, powered by “intent” and informed by “context”— features aiming to constantly learn, adapt, automate and protect in order to optimize network operations and defend against an evolving cyber threat landscape.

The important point is that the industry seems to be converging on an appreciation of intent, what it is, and the simple fact that it is not just some geeky term – it’s IMPORTANT to little aspirations such as agility, flexibility, automation, self-management and opex reduction. And without it, complex ordering becomes nearly impossible.  With it, new revenue sources, NaaS and “never-before-feasible” on-demand services become not only feasible but profitable.  Traditional ASRs anyone? I didn’t think so.

I hope this is a harbinger of things to come. I have had leading Tier-1 CSPs ask “where would Intent live in my OSSes?”.  I have had suppliers show me sequenced workflow that, in their mind, achieves “intent”. I have been ducked when asking more times than I can count.  I like to think the situation is progressing, and that we have played a tiny role in moving it along.