Intent-based networking for chemicals plants

The emergence of intent-based networking has been one of the most exciting and transformative trends in the networking industry in recent years. It has the potential to make organisations’ networks far more intelligent and agile, far more tailored to their needs and operations, far more efficient and far more automated.

But what does intent-based networking look like in practice – within the chemicals industry?

Understanding intent-based networking

First, a quick reminder of what intent-based networking actually means. As we explain here, at the core of intent-based networking is the use of machine learning algorithms to configure and monitor enterprise networks.

What this means in practice is that network administrators define high-level business policies in line with organisational strategies and goals. and network orchestration software then automatically translates this into network policies. It means that policies are automatically configured with a holistic view of what best serves business goals, rather than growing organically through manual iteration after manual iteration.

Intent-based networking also involves ongoing monitoring on an automated basis, with continual data collection and machine learning enabling the network to maintain its desired state, even as new devices and applications are added or amended, and through changing working practices or security threats.

Intent-based networking in chemicals plants

So that’s intent-based networking in general. What does it look like specifically in the chemicals industry?

Chemicals plants are some of the most challenging environments in the world for building and deploying an enterprise network. They combine truly mission-critical operations, in which downtime and error can be truly catastrophic, with harsh environmental conditions and the requirement for really robust and rugged hardware.

But this means that intent-based networking can be truly transformative in the chemicals industry because it enables organisations to translate complex business intent into automated network policy. ‘Complex business intent’ could mean the plant’s operational processes, incorporating multiple different pieces of hardware and complex production lines. How should the network best be structured to enable those production lines, and to ensure proactive, predictive maintenance of every piece of hardware?

‘Complex business intent’ could also mean the multiple regulatory and complex frameworks which chemical plants have to adhere to. What network policies will not only support the plant in achieving compliance but also make it easiest to demonstrate said compliance in case of an audit or an emergency situation.

Last year, Cisco announced new capabilities in extending intent-based networking to the IoT edge, with the help of its new Cisco Industrial Router. In practice, this means that industrial IoT customers – like chemical plants – can extend their SD-WAN capabilities across their entire premises, elevating application performance and gaining the ability to scale their networks in an automated – and therefore super-agile – way.

The insights generated from an intent-based network in the chemicals industry can lead to anything from enhanced production lines, to more intelligent and resource-efficient approaches to maintaining and upgrading equipment. They can keep the chemicals plant safer and even fuel new product development and innovation. Intent-based networking is truly the future of connected chemicals plants – and it is something that MLR Networks can help with from initial design through to ongoing monitoring. To learn more, get in touch with us today.