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This syndicated post originally appeared at Network World Zeus Kerravala.

Its vendor-agnostic, data center management system delivers on the vision of SDN without the associated risks

Apstra's management team (left to right): Sasha Ratkovic, Mansour Karam and David Cheriton. Credit: Apstra

Earlier this month I wrote a post asking the question: “Who speaks for multi-vendor environments?” Since then, I’ve had a few vendors reach out to me about their solutions that could indeed meet the needs of a vendor-agnostic data center. One of the most interesting, Apstra, came out of stealth mode this week and has a solution that’s certainly up to the challenge that I laid out in my blog.

Apstra’s solution automates the data center operations across the lifecycle of the network—from the design/build phase through deployment/operate. The Apstra Operating System (AOS) takes an integrated approach to managing the data center that starts with business intent and is fed into a closed loop system. The data center operator then selects a pre-configured, and a validated template applies any constraints to it, which creates a blueprint for deployment.

AOS uses this blueprint to deploy a configuration to the physical network, which gathers telemetry and enforces intent, ensuring the deployment is in line with business requirements. AOS can be thought of as a “soup to nuts” management system that fully automates data center operations.

Key benefits of the Apstra solution:

  • Operational simplicity and network agility. Apstra offers templates that are turnkey in nature and built with DevOps in mind. The inputs to the solution are based on business intent, so it addresses the needs of the organization and not just technology requirements. The solution addresses the needs of the entire network lifecycle, including day 0, 1 and 2+.
  • Greater control and visibility. Apstra offers real-time, high-resolution telemetry information. The telemetry enables intent-based anomaly detection to give data center operations the ability to move to a proactive management model. Also, the rich information enables the solution to continuously validate configurations and network topology.
  • Hardware-agnostic solution. Apstra’s strength lies in the fact that it is a hardware-agnostic data center management tool. AOS treats every network device as a simple component with assigned roles. The solution has all the necessary drivers for supported hardware and is able to gather telemetry information directly from the network devices. Supported hardware includes:
    • Arista
    • Broadcom-based hardware
    • Cisco
    • Cumulus
    • Dell
    • HP
    • Juniper
    • Linux-based hardware
    • Open Compute Project Solutions
    • Open Switch
  • Community-based innovation: If executed on correctly, this capability can give Apstra a huge leg up on the competition. Apstra has opened its platform up and made it accessible to developers. The community of developers can build new templates, integrate into third-party systems and create drivers to other legacy network devices, creating value above and beyond what Apstra has built. Also, the telemetry and state streaming has been made available to analyze the data and gather insights that could not have been realized before. The power of the community can grow the value of the solution exponentially.

Apstra Operating System

Apstra’s solution is unique in the networking industry and enables data center operations to align with the goals of the CIO and the business. The vendor-agnostic, agile, intent-based platform can deliver on the vision of SDN without the associated risks.

This is certainly a big undertaking, but Apstra has a strong management team (pictured at the top of the page).

Mansour Karam (middle) has spent the last decade focusing on the needs of the CIO and making the engineer more agile through his roles at Arista where he worked with the first customers to define the company’s user requirements. He also spent time at Big Switch Networks and their early attempts at SDN.

David Cheriton (right) is the distributed systems expert. He is also a Google and VMware investor, as well as co-founder of both Arista and Granite. He understands the need for extensibility and has given the Apstra team a similar funding structure as Arista, helping the company attract a top-notch engineering team.

Sasha Ratkovic (left) is an abstraction expert and Distinguished Engineer from Juniper who was the first to present group policies to OpenStack back in 2012.

There’s a clear need for an end-to-end, vendor agnostic management tool. Apstra’s platform simplifies operations, brings a higher level of visibility, masks complexity and enables multi-vendor data center. It will help move SDN from vision to reality.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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