Juniper Networks upgrades its Apstra intent-based networking software

Juniper aims to improve its data-center story with streamlined configuration tools, real-time monitoring, and support for VMware NSX and the SONiC network operating system.

Data center corridor of servers with abstract overlay of digital connections.
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Juniper Networks is releasing the latest version of its Apstra intent-based networking software that includes new monitoring features and configuration templates as well as better integration with VMware’s NSX virtualization and security platform.

In January, Juniper bought Apstra and its Apstra Operating System (AOS), which was developed from the start to support IBN features. Once deployed, AOS—now just called Apstra—keeps a real-time repository of configuration, telemetry and validation information to ensure the network is doing what customers want it to do. Apstra also includes automation features to provide consistent network and security policies for workloads across physical and virtual infrastructures.

Apstra’s intent-based analytics performs regular network checks to safeguard configurations and is hardware agnostic so it can be integrated to work with products from Cisco, Arista, Dell, Microsoft, and Nvidia/Cumulus. Prior to its purchase, Apstra had a strong integration with Juniper networking products.

With the release of Apstra 4.0, Juniper has bolstered its IBN capabilities with new customizable and reusable network templates. 

“The idea is to make it easier for customers to add devices or workloads as they need to, and the Apstra system ensures they work across the entire network fabric without any problems and without the manual intervention required in the past—it’s really a leap-forward in IBN configuration,” said Mansour Karam, founder and president of Apstra.

The operating system also support tags that label all manner of physical and logical network components to define where data should flow, apply policies or filter certain traffic—all with the goal of validating that the customer’s intent is being carried out on the networkt, Karam said.

These details are also populated into Apstra’s central database and analytics system that lets customers manage the intended state of the network and alerts when anything deviates from expectations, Karam said.

Support for VMware NSX

Apstra 4.0 extends support for VMware’s NSX Networking 3.0 environment to help manage virtual and physical networks, Karam said.

Overlay networks like VMware NSX-T help manage workloads, yet add another layer of complexity for administration and troubleshooting. The Apstra integration with NSX-T 3.0 assures interworking between the virtual and physical networks, Michael Bushong, vice president of data-center product management at Juniper, wrote in a blog.

“For example, Apstra polls the NSX-T controller and is thereby aware of what’s going on inside the NSX-T environment, enabling allocation of network resources,” Bushong stated. “Further, the Apstra software lets customers easily locate virtual machines within the fabric. Unified underlay and overlay views reduce troubleshooting headaches and speed mean time to innocence when application performance issues arise.”

SONiC support

Apstra 4.0 also supports the open-source Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) network operating system.  The Linux-based NOS, developed and open-sourced by Microsoft, 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 idea is that network operators can get the same enterprise Apstra interface into their SONiC environments as they do with their enterprise system, Karam said.  “For example, SONiC doesn’t have a traditional CLI interface for system control which can be a challenge—Apstra software eliminates that pain point,” Karam said.

Apstra has been a strong proponent of SONiC and just last November added new SONiC features including support for ethernet VPN (EVPN) Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) including support for EVPN Route Types 2, 3, and 5, Data Center Interconnect (DCI), and L2 and L3 segmentation. DCI can link multiple data centers for resiliency, data backup, and disaster recovery.

Part of the Apstra 4.0 announcement also included the introduction of a new turnkey packaging option for the software and Juniper hardware. Customers can now order prepackaged Apstra software with Juniper’s QFX Series switches and SRX Series Services Gateways.

It can enable mid-sized organizations to can adopt Juniper’s approach to data center operations without undertaking big design projects or lengthy deployment programs, Bushong stated.  

“The scalable, optimized architecture lets teams confidently deploy what they need today with the flexibility to scale from small 4-switch footprints to deployments that support much larger deployments, regardless of the resource,” Bushong stated. “With Apstra managing the building blocks, new data centers can now be deployed within hours—not days—using Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) and a set of pre-validated blueprints.”

SONiC is a growing market, and the 650 Group recently wrote in a report that the worldwide market for SONiC in data-center switching will exceed $4 billion by 2025.

Apstra 4.0 will be available by the end of June.

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