Intent-Based Networking for the Enterprise
Invitation Code: RFP-20-05

Enterprise Networking is undergoing the most significant architectural change since the introduction of software-defined networking (SDN) about a decade ago. The motivation is that current enterprises face several networking challenges including to (1) quickly adapt a network to meet new application or service requirements, (2) detect network problems and identify associated solutions to resolve the problem, and (3) minimize security vulnerabilities, including when a security threat occurs quickly detect, identify, and remediate the threat. To address these challenges the network industry is developing a new architectural approach referred to as Intent-Based Networking (IBN). IBN builds on SDN in several dimensions.

  • First, the capability to take a human intent (however expressed) and translate this intent into network and security policies that can be configured into multi-vendor network elements (Intent translation)
  • Second, the intelligent automation of those policies consistently across the enterprise network that may be operated in many domains of different types (Access, WAN, Data Center and Cloud).
  • Third, the implementation of near-real-time closed-loop feedback which monitors the network operation, detects problems, identifies root causes and associates candidate solutions, and applies the candidate solutions based on human decision or automated policy. This third topic is referred to as Assurance, and differs from SDN which was primarily focused on the feedforward path.

A diverse set of recent advances may be applied in an intent-based network: contextual-dependent natural language processing (NLP) to convert human expressed intents to machine understandable goals, machine learning (ML) for anomaly detection and prediction, machine reasoning (MR) for root-cause analysis. Traditional mechanisms like simulation or formal logic methods may also find renewed applicability in IBN to pro-actively identify challenges or validate network changes before they are implemented into the infrastructure.

This call for research requests innovative approaches to advance any of the functional components of an intent-based network architecture: Translation, Activation, Assurance. Specific areas of interest include (but not limited to):

  • Architectures and algorithms to capture intent, such as translation from human spoken intent to network and security policies
  • Models and semantics for intent-based policies in general or specific to a technology domain (e.g. security)
  • Mechanisms to validate policy rules and resolve potential conflicts that may arise in multi-operator environments or evolutions over time
  • Intent-based architectures for specific domains, such as smart cities, manufacturing or IoT
  • Architectures and interfaces to facilitate operational flexibility for IBN, for example if one or more domains are operated by a managed service provider while other domains remain under operation of the enterprise.

Proposal Submission:

After a preliminary review, we may ask you to revise and resubmit your proposal.

RFPs may be withdrawn as research proposals are funded, or interest in the specific topic is satisfied.

Researchers should plan to submit their proposals as soon as possible.

General Requirements for Consideration, Proposal Details, FAQs

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Constraints and other information

IPR will stay with the university. Cisco expects customary scholarly dissemination of results and hopes that promising results would be made available to the community without limiting licenses, royalties, or other encumbrances.