Juniper's AppFormix Aims to Automate via Intent-Based Networking

Kelsey Kusterer Ziser

Juniper, through its recent AppFormix acquisition, has joined a growing group of vendors reviving intent-based networking -- a promising concept for service providers' end goal of network automation.

Intent-based networking isn't a new concept, but it's on the minds of vendors from startups like Apstra to the likes of Cisco. (See Arista Co-Founder Backs Network Automation Startup.)

AppFormix is a cloud service optimization platform which founder Sumeet Singh says is a way to utilize automation and software validation to react to infrastructure changes and maintain a "good known state." Essentially, AppFormix creates more visibility into the baseline state of the network -- it focuses on the operations aspect of running network infrastructure, watching to see if the network is deviating from what should be considered a normal state.

Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) acquired AppFormix in Dec. 2016.

In order to make the product more consumable, AppFormix has since added additional features and provided monitoring of orchestration in a disaggregated way, keeping in mind how organizations are moving to a DevOps culture.

"What we did was, we said that intent isn't just one person or one entity, it truly could be an application, another layer of automation, it could be different users," says Singh, now a Juniper vice president of engineering, in an interview with Light Reading. "We rolled this entire product and service out as a multi-tenant, role-based service where different people, organizations or apps could express their intent in a unique way."

The benefit of IBN and AppFormix to telcos, adds Singh, is to solve for the disconnect between what telcos want to achieve and what's actually happening in the network by creating more visibility. AppFormix claims to improve availability by identifying and fixing faults in the network in an automated fashion; scale services depending on capacity requirements; and aid in the operation of large, distributed infrastructures.

"As we think about constructing new telco networks, they're all starting to look like this large distributed cloud where management becomes extremely hard because you have of all these disaggregated pieces," Singh adds.

Some service providers are utilizing the AppFormix technology in conjunction with the Contrail Cloud Platform, offering service assurance for their distributed cloud networks, he says. Contrail Cloud, Juniper's cloud offering based on OpenStack, is a way for operators to build out an SD-WAN and deploy, orchestrate and manage network functions, continues Singh.

AppFormix was predominantly enterprise-focused before joining Juniper but is expanding its service provider customer base, which includes managed cloud provider Rackspace.

Heavy Reading Senior Analyst James Crawshaw says while intent-based networking is gaining momentum, vendors like Juniper and Cisco are currently focused on the data center and enterprise. In order to develop a unified solution where IBN is implemented in operator's wide area networks, Crawshaw says there has to be a standardization of the intent-based language; otherwise, operators will continue to face the problem of vendor interoperability. (See Intent-Based Marketing or Intent-Based Networking?)

Further reading:

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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