Apstra arms SONiC support for enterprise network battles

IDC says SONiC data-center switch market will be worth $2 billion by 2024.

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The community around the open-sourced Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) NOS got a little stronger as Apstra says its intent-based networking software is now more ready for enterprise prime-time than implementations from Cisco and Arista.

The Linux-based NOS, developed and open sourced by Microsoft in 2017, decouples network software from the underlying hardware and lets it run on switches and ASICs from multiple vendors while supporting a full suite of network features such as border gateway protocol (BGP), remote direct memory access (RDMA), QoS, and  other Ethernet/IP technologies.

The SONiC community has been expanding and includes Dell, Arista, Nokia, Apstra, Alibaba, Comcast, Cisco, Broadcom, Juniper, Edgecore, Innovium, NVIDIA-Mellanox and VMware. According to IDC, a SONiC data-center switch market will be worth $2 billion by 2024.

IDC said in a recent Network World article that SONiC is currently deployed primarily on top-of-rack Ethernet switches in cloud-scale datacenters, but the industry support it has received and the features it continues to add are helping extend its reach not only to leaf-spine networks in cloud data centers but also to converged networks, WAN, and other routing use cases.

With those trends in mind, Apstra says it has closed the SONiC feature parity gap with traditional network switch vendors for use in multiple use cases. That includes everything from top-of-rack to the spine with the inclusion of automation and analytics capabilities that are now fully supported and on par with every other vendor the company supports, said Zack Zilakakis, Apstra’s head of product marketing.

“Apstra wants organizations to reliably deploy and operate SONiC with simplicity, which is achieved through validated automation...Apstra wants to abstract the switch OS complexity to present a consistent operational model across all switch OS options, including SONiC,” Zilakakis  said.  “Apstra wants to provide organizations with another enterprise switching solution to enable flexibility when making architecture and procurement decisions.”

The company’s core Apstra Operating System (AOS), which supports SONIC-based network environments, was built from the ground up to support IBN. Once running it keeps a real-time repository of configuration, telemetry and validation information to constantly ensure the network is doing what the customer wants it to do.

AOS includes automation features to provide consistent network and security policies for workloads across physical and virtual infrastructures. It also includes intent-based analytics to perform regular network checks to safeguard configurations. AOS is hardware agnostic and integrated to work with products from Cisco, Arista, Dell, Juniper, Microsoft and Nvidia/Cumulus.

In its latest release of AOS, the company has added new SONiC features including support for Ethernet VPN (EVPN) Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) including support for EVPN Route Types 2, 3, and 5 as well as Data Center Interconnect (DCI), and L2 and L3 segmentation, according to Apstra’s head of networking strategy, Jeff Tantsura.  DCI lets customers link multiple data centers for resiliency, data backup and disaster recovery applications.

AOS also now includes Multi-Chassis Link Aggregation (MLAG) with EVPN for multi-homing with EVPN and hot restartability on configuration changes, Tantsura said. The idea is to simplify the exchange of control data and make sure traffic is forwarded correctly among larger configurations in particular.

“AOS provides full life-cycle management for Sonic switches throughout a number of intent-driven and intuitive workflows with continuous validation built in,” Tantsura said.

The network is the foundation for digital transformation (DX), a competitive advantage for whoever uses it most efficiently. Every organization, regardless of vertical, is facing a resource challenge that directly impacts DX initiatives, Zilakakis said.

Zilakakis says Apstra is addressing the resource constraints by abstracting the complexities of the switch OS and placing emphasis on operating--empowering operations teams within these organizations with   flexibility, whether a single or multi-vendor.

“Telcos are tasked with deploying and supporting massively dispersed micro-data centers at the edge and are already challenged by resource constraints. Enterprises are demanding the operational simplicity of the cloud on-premises, which is achieved through network abstraction,” Zilakakis  said.

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