In September, Juniper Networks expanded the Apstra platform to include a Freeform capability that provides datacenter operators renewed management flexibility and support for all datacenter topologies. At the recent Networking Field Day event, Juniper Networks made presentations showcasing Apstra’s ability to take Intent-Based Networking to the next level to deliver the coveted all-automatic infrastructure sans the usual constraints of datacenter management solutions and demoed Apstra’s Freeform feature to the audience.
Digital Transformation Demands a Rock-Solid Network
In the enterprise world, the wheels of digital transformation started to turn in earnest in the last decade with our growing appetite for faster outcomes and the entry of new technologies. As the pandemic arrived in furtive steps in 2019, this caught inertia of a never-before kind. Suddenly, it all fell on the network, the bedrock of the infrastructure to rise to the occasion and bear the weight of the legion of new technologies that arrived unannounced.
Network engineers hit a wall and concurred that in order to push forward, they need to upgrade the network, and for that, they need the right set of tools, which at the time was not available to them. Without the right tools, the network teams found themselves succumbing to the overwhelming complexities of a growing network. Tasked with the goal of speedy deployments, they ended up overlooking factors that contribute to and sometimes themselves causing network disruptions and outages, that each time set enterprises back by astronomical sums of money.
Juniper Networks’ Goals with Apstra
It became clear that the network is mission-critical. Juniper Networks sensed that a gap was opening up wide and fast that could only be closed with a tool that could promise both speed and reliability so that the network teams can pace up to the speed and flow of the business while keeping the underlying network reliably functioning. Apstra was born from this reality that shaped out before our eyes. “We wanted to really advance the game when it comes to delivering a reliable experience,” says Mansour Karam, VP of Products and co-founder of Apstra. That was top of the list.
The other goal that Juniper Networks had with Apstra was to deliver a multi-vendor solution that is compatible with all established vendors and open solutions so that operators are not put in a box with a vendor lock-in.
The third thing on the agenda was to design a solution that is scalable so that it can work with not a set number of devices, but elastically with a growing stack. “For us, we want to address the needs of the largest datacenters on the planet. We want to grow with our customers as they grow their businesses. Scalability is critical to any network management solution and we wanted to build a solution that had scalability top of mind from the ground up,” said Karam.
Juniper Networks Apstra and Its New Freeform Capability
Recorded in September at the Networking Field Day event in California, the presentation below offers an overview of Apstra as detailed by Mansour Karam. Later in the presentation, DJ Spry, Sr Director of Product Management with Juniper Networks gave a demo of Freeform Flexibility, the feature that has been newly added to the solution explaining how it helps network operators unlock the full potential of Apstra while dodging the known constraints.
According to Karam, Juniper Networks started Intent-Based Networking before it caught on with the rest of the market. IBN enables network engineers to define their intentions and let the software realize all outcomes, from connectivity to security to QoE and more. This way, operators can have a hand-off experience with building and deploying a network.
A full life cycle management solution, Apstra has IBN at its core. IBN ensures that there’s only a Single Source of Truth in the network which stores all the intents and all the states. The software pulls the intents from the SSOT and automatically pushes the configurations to the network switches. Seeing it through to the end, the software picks up telemetry from the devices crosschecking that all intents were delivered. This continues in a cycle, starting at Day 0, from the time the network is built and deployed to every time a change is implemented.
Apstra keeps a record of all changes ever made in its distributed data store in the form of snapshots. Using a feature called Time Voyager, operators can go back to any date and time and audit the changes, or revert if required to the very minute before the change was applied.
Juniper Networks’ Apstra serves a wide set of use cases that range from private cloud to datacenter, 5G to campus network to machine learning and more. But back in 2014, with Apstra 1.0, the support was very limited and constrained. With the subsequent versions, Juniper Networks widened its support of topologies and protocols to serve more use cases.
With Freeform, Juniper Networks unlocks full flexibility and optimum simplicity with Apstra allowing operators to fully customize their network designs or use simple templatized designs from the library as required. On the interactive canvas of Apstra’s Network Designer, operators can design a network configuring it however they want without even owning the network equipment. Once the design is ready and operators are happy with how it looks, they can deploy it and get it up and running with all its wares.
With Apstra, Juniper Networks provides a unified management layer from where operators can observe all elements of a datacenter, study the correlations, and manage them easily with the click of a button with smart intent-based networking. The Freeform feature further enhances its capabilities with flexibility of customization and extended support for all datacenter topologies. With that and its multi-vendor support, Juniper Networks successfully averts one of the worst guardrails of datacenter operations while providing proactive insights and advanced telemetry, the proven path to preventing unplanned outages.