Last week, on February 8, 2019, Packet Pushers published our second podcast with them covering a range of customer use case updates and new features like our Network Query Engine (NQE), VMware NSX support, Cisco ACI announcement and more. We have always gotten great feedback on our shows with hosts Greg and Ethan, and find their audience to be one of the most savvy and technical groups out there.

Quite coincidently, we were surprised that Drew Conry-Murray from the Packet Pushers team also published a blog last week titled, “Intent-based Marketing Sucks”. Since many in the industry consider us one of the leaders in intent-based networking, we thought it was an odd prelude to our upcoming podcast release.

In reality, I pretty strongly agree with Drew, though, and I think we had a good chuckle about it over email. The two main points we agree on are that: 1) “intent based networking” has become one of those vaguely defined panaceas that every remotely-related vendor tries to tie into, and 2) Forward Networks actually does a really good job of not leading with “intent washing”, as so many people see it. Drew actually compliments us on our straight-forward, technical and value-based presentations.

To the point of Drew’s blog, “it appears that if you expose APIs and can auto-configure a network device, you are ‘Intent-Based’”. There are SD-WAN vendors, for example, pitching whatever link optimization feature they have as intent-based networking. That’s not really keeping with the full vision of how the industry defined “intent based networking”. We’ve seen the same thing in the past with “SDN washing”, “cloud washing”, etc.

Drew notes that customers don’t benefit from this kind of confusion and mislabeling. Instead, he says that customers want clarity and not jargon. Which is absolutely the approach that Forward Networks has taken while I’ve been doing product marketing. We rarely lead with “intent based networking” to define or position ourselves, precisely because it is still such an ill-defined technology. We educate customers first on what our product really does, and not refer solely to buzzwords.

For the most recent example, we presented at Tech Field Day in Barcelona on January 30 to a very seasoned panel of leading European networking bloggers and technologists, and they unanimously said that we were the best presentation of the week (via comments like this, this and this)! From clearly articulating how our product solves real problems, demonstrating use cases, and an in-depth walk-through of product features. No jargon, no buzzwords, no hype, no confusion. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here:

I think you’ll get the same impression from our Packet Pushers podcast where we cover a lot of the same material. We also have a number of short, helpful videos that quickly highlight actual product features and use cases rather than dumbing down the technology into a bunch of hyperbole.

The latest video we produced is on our Network Query Engine (NQE) feature, for example, which really opened people’s eyes at Cisco Live Europe. And the accompanying blog on NQE, which was jointly written by our CTO, lead engineer for the project and myself, is a very detailed technical tutorial implicitly devoid of any sales-speak. (It’s probably too long for a feature introduction, and maybe a bit dry, but we’ll be working on some more bite-sized presentations moving forward on NQE). Check them out and let us know what you think:

NQE Blog

NQE Video

New Video Showing VMware NSX and Amazon AWS VPC support

In the end, Drew assured us that he didn’t have Forward Networks in mind when he disparaged the industry’s intent-based marketing efforts. And we would agree with him that it has certainly become a confusing space, and that’s not going to help anyone. But, we’re finding quite the opposite with our customer efforts by focusing on real capabilities and solutions. You can find actual feedback from our customers on delivering real product value on Gartner’s peer insights website. And Dr. Jens-Henrik Soeldner, writing in one of Germany’s leading IT journals, thought we were the hottest, most interesting vendor at Cisco Live Europe last month (according to this).  The bottom line is that when you’ve got a great product that delivers real value you don’t need to fall back on buzzwords and jargon.

Yesterday, Brandon Heller and I recorded a podcast with Ethan Banks and Greg Ferro of Packet Pushers fame. If you are not a fan of Packet Pusher Podcasts, you should be. They have a large following of highly technical network nerds and their podcasts are always engaging and educational. When they finish production on the podcast, I'll post a link here.

During the discussion, we talked about how Forward Networks can be a "single source of truth" for all things networking. Network admins are always looking for a single source of truth for the topology and implementation of the network in a digestible documentation source rather than trying to cobble it together when needed from individual devices. For many years Microsoft Visio has been the most frequently used tool to document network topology and connectivity, including IP addresses, etc. But the problem has always been that complex diagrams are hard to maintain and keep current, and there's no guarantee they reflect reality.

Ethan had a great line, that Visio is the "single source of the way the network looked at some point in time". Which was humorous and insightful enough that he tweeted it out. Then all sorts of hilarity ensued.

So, Visio may represent a somewhat archaic view of the network, maybe? Or maybe Visio as a topology mapping tool is somewhat of a relic? Finally, someone asks:

A Better Way

Well, as fans of Forward Networks know, that answer is a resounding "Yes!". In fact, if your primary interest is automatically maintaining an always-up-to-date topology diagram, with a centralized repository of configuration files and network state, then you only need our Free solution, Forward Essentials. It can collect all of your network data in minutes, builds a diagram, and you are ready to dive in and drill down on all your current network details, protocols, ports and plumbing.

Essentials can collect a new snapshot every day, or more frequently if desired, so you are automatically up to date. And Essentials doesn't merely generate a diagram. It's a very interactive, intuitive user interface that allows you to search, explore and drill down into the network to help research and document devices from every angle. A perfect training tool or a repository for compliance and audit data.

If you're interested in seeing a quick demo video, learning more, or a trial the free product, it all happens here.

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