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Juniper Bolsters its Intent-Based Networking with Release of Apstra 4.0

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Juniper Networks unveiled the latest version of its Apstra intent-based networking (IBN) software in an effort to help enterprises automate data center operations. Among other enhancements, Apstra 4.0 features connectivity templates for managing connections to attached systems and additional support for multi-vendor integrations.

Apstra, which specializes in IBN and intent-based analytics (IBA), has become the cornerstone of Juniper’s data center portfolio since Juniper acquired the company and its Apstra Operating System (AOS) in January. Apstra 4.0 is the first major software release after the acquisition. Apstra was a pioneer in IBN and adds to the collection of recent acquisitions, which include Mist Systems and 128 Technology, for Juniper that has enabled the company to become a much stronger enterprise vendor.

Juniper continues its enterprise networking innovation

Evidence of Juniper’s enterprise strength comes from its financial results. Digital transformation in the enterprise is driving new requirements for networks to be operated as a unified system and the company has jumped all over this trend. According to Juniper, its revenue grew 7.2 percent in Q1 2021 from last year, powered by strong demand in cloud and enterprise solutions. Revenue from cloud products increased by 30 percent, while enterprise demand rose by 20 percent across all categories.

Apstra 4.0 includes updates to not only help network teams deploy and integrate, but also bring cloud-like operations to the data center. For instance, the software provides connectivity templates that network teams can use to create their own customizable, reusable templates to streamline how connections are created.

Connectivity templates simplify deployment

The connectivity templates ensure that the network—including servers, workloads, storage, security systems—is functioning as it should. Apstra’s IBN software is aware of what’s happening in the network and will alert users if it deviates from expected behavior. This makes IBN configuration much easier for organizations, eliminating the need for manual intervention.

“Companies used to build reference design guides, these 150 page documents on setting up configurations. Apstra is the reference design doc in a box. You design it and we take out the reference design,” said Mansour Karam, Founder of Apstra in a pre-briefing with ZK Research.

In addition to connectivity templates, Apstra 4.0 supports tags that label network components to distinguish where data should be flowing. Network teams can assign tags, apply policies, or filter traffic based on their business needs. The tags are tied to analytics, which closes any loopholes between visibility and operations.

Apstra’s strength is multi-vendor support

Another major selling point of the software is multi-vendor integrations. Having added Apstra to its product portfolio, Juniper remains committed to supporting multi-vendor environments.

The Apstra software already integrates with Cisco, Dell, Arista Networks, Nvidia, and Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) network operating system, as well as Juniper switches. In Apstra 4.0, Juniper has added VMware NSX-T 3.0 and Enterprise SONiC integrations.

When Juniper acquired Apstra, some industry watchers were concerned it would shift the product to being Juniper only, but the company has been very clear that it will maintain the vendor neutral aspect of the product. Juniper has talked about the importance of being open and it’s continued to deliver open products.

Apstra 4.0 integration with NSX-T 3.0 enables communication and data exchange between virtual and physical networks. Apstra software takes VMWare’s APIs (application programming interfaces) and performs analytics checks in real-time. This allows network teams to auto-remediate any issues within the fabric. The amount of ongoing tweaking and tuning to get a network running optimally can take weeks or even months. With Apstra 4.0, however, the setup can be reduced from weeks to minutes.

Juniper customers also have more choice when it comes to building large-scale cloud data centers with open networking. Apstra 4.0  integration with Enterprise SONiC gives network teams the Apstra interface in their SONiC environments, simplifying management of Enterprise SONiC-based networks.

Many enterprise customers have been asking for a better way to manage their SONiC-based networks. “It’s an evolution of choice and control for customers where Juniper/Apstra is the management plane and SONiC is the operating system. But really, it’s about solving management issues,” said Karam.

With the new software release, Juniper is expanding IBA capabilities by coupling validation, semantic checks, syntactical checks, and good network behavior with intelligent connections. The extensions and integrations are likely to benefit mid-sized organizations most by simplifying deployment and operations as they build modern data centers.

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