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Apstra's Intent-Based Networking Adds SDN Overlays

Kelsey Kusterer Ziser

Intent-based networking (IBN) startup Apstra launched the latest version of the Apstra Operating System -- AOS 2.0 -- today, a vendor-agnostic management platform that enables automation of operations across underlay and overlay networks in data centers.

Apstra launched AOS 1.0 in June 2016, and the initial release focused more on the data centers' physical network and automated the Layer 3 underlay network, utilizing a VLAN protocol to provide Layer 2 services within each rack.

The latest version -- AOS 2.0 -- now automates the lifecycle of VXLAN-based Layer 2 network services across racks and runs applications with endpoints anywhere in the data center -- whether the endpoints are physical, containerized or bare metal.

With the new version of the platform, Apstra seems to extend "their management platform to also cover overlay networks (such as VXLAN-based virtual networks) in addition to the physical underlay network," says Heavy Reading analyst James Crawshaw.

Apstra CEO and founder Mansour Karam says the use of VXLAN "makes it quite easy for enterprises to take those legacy L2 apps and move them into the new infrastructure in a very flexible way."

In addition, Karam says the platform utilizes a closed-loop system so "You're not just trying to push configurations of control blindly. You're independently checking -- by gathering and analyzing the telemetry and running tests continuously -- that the system is delivering on your intent."

That feedback loop, critical to IBN, "is uncannily like the closed-loop orchestration concept supporting NFV," Crawshaw notes in the report Intent-Based Networking: Automating Next-Generation Networks. (See Intent-Based Networking: Marketing Hype or a Magic Bullet for Automation?.) AOS is also vendor-agnostic and helps customers avoid vendor lock-in, which Crawshaw says is important because vendors' differentiators can inhibit automation at the network service level.

While Apstra initially focused on enterprise customers and data centers, IBN will also become increasingly important to service providers seeking to increase automation in their networks. However, due to the complexity of service provider networks, this goal is likely several years from fruition, and Crawshaw argues the key to progress here lies in creating a standard language for management of networks. Many of the key stakeholders for IBN are collaborating on an MEF working group which is in the beginning stages of addressing these types of challenges around IBN.

"I'm not sure that Apstra has done anything revolutionary here," says Crawshaw. "The IETF has had many working groups over the years looking into the operations, administration and management of data center networks and designing specifications to map overlay traffic to the underlay network for troubleshooting. I think Apstra is just responding to customer demands by adding this feature to its existing platform."

In the Heavy Reading report, Crawshaw notes that Apstra has had the most commercial success of the other IBN companies he examined including Forward Networks, Itential, NetYCE, Sea Street Technologies and Veriflow Systems.

Larger vendors that have recently focused more on the intent-based networking arena include Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) with its AppFormix acquisition and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) with its DNA Center. (See Intent-Based Networking: Marketing Hype or a Magic Bullet for Automation?.)

AOS 2.0 is due to begin shipping later this month.

Related posts:

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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10/4/2017 | 1:58:32 PM
Apstra rolling out underlay feature
The most amazing thing about Apstra's announcement is that the press release contains quotes from 8 different industry analysts. That's one analyst for every 7 Apstra employees!
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