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What is intent-based networking (IBN)?

As users, devices, and distributed applications have grown in number, the networking environment has become exponentially more complex. IBN transforms a hardware-centric, manual network into a controller-led network that captures business intent and translates it into policies that can be automated and applied consistently across the network. The goal is for the network to continuously monitor and adjust network performance to help assure desired business outcomes.

How does it work?

IBN builds on software-defined networking (SDN), by using a network controller that acts as a central control point for network activity. Such controllers are crucial for network abstraction that lets IT treat the network as an integrated whole. Controller-led networks in all domains (including access, WAN, data center, and cloud) collaborate and extend their benefits throughout the enterprise and help make digital transformation a reality.

The closed-loop system of IBN operates with the following functional building blocks to deliver intent--or, support for the business or IT outcomes that your organization needs:

  • Translation: The capture and translation of intent into policies the network can act on.
  • Activation: Installation of these policies across the physical and virtual network infrastructure, using networkwide automation.
  • Assurance: Use of analytics and machine learning to continuously monitor the network to verify that the desired intent has been applied and the business outcomes are being achieved.

Features and benefits

What intent-based networking can do for you

Simplified operations

Centralize network policy control, automate management, and integrate IT workflows.

Proactive ​management

Use network monitoring and analytics, aided by machine learning, to pinpoint, report, and remedy issues before they become problems.

Security throughout the network

Detect and contain threats everywhere, in real time. Use network intelligence to quickly alert security operations.

Investment for innovation

Deliver IT and business innovation now and in the future, built on an open, intent-based networking platform.

Explore solutions that are built on intent-based networking


Cisco Software-Defined Access (SD-Access) automates one policy across the Cisco Catalyst wired and wireless infrastructure.


Cisco SD-WAN securely connects any user, any application, anywhere, with the power of the cloud.

Data Center

Cisco Assurance and Insights solutions have the power to predict, Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure delivers automation, and Cisco Tetration secures your data center.


Intent-based network security aligns and optimizes the network with security needs to thousands of locations from one interface.

See what customers are saying

AI and automation trends

Artificial intelligence and network automation have been identified as key trends impacting networking in next five years.

Accelerate your success with services from Cisco Customer Experience

Confidently move to a secure, automated, intent-based network with expert guidance, proven experience, best practices, and innovative tools.