Data Centre ICT Automation/Orchestration Innovation of the Year
The Juniper Apstra System solves the problem of complexity in data centre operations with intent-based analytics and networking to automate and deliver self-operating networks across vendors. The solution stands out from the competition in being one, unified, full lifecycle system for design, deployment, and everyday operations for Cisco, Arista, VMware and Juniper Networks, dramatically reducing the cost of keeping the network running. The Apstra System has helped customers to achieve 90% faster time to delivery, 70% faster time to resolution, and 83% OpEx reduction.
The Apstra System offers a new way of thinking about data centre network operations: start by specifying the outcomes you want; then, the software sets up the network across vendors, assures it runs as intended, alerts you when brownouts or deviations occur, and also manages changes and maintenance. In this way, the turnkey Apstra software enables automation of the entire network lifecycle in a single system, easing adoption of network automation to streamline operations. Removing the need for tedious, repetitive device-by-device command entry, vendor-specific expertise, and manual interventions reduces operational costs and the risk of problems going undetected and unresolved.
A core principle of the Apstra System is that optimum operations start with the best design. The System ties the architect’s design to everyday operations with closed-loop assurance, a single source of truth, and powerful analytics and root cause identification. Intent-based networking thereby makes it easier for architects to ensure the network operates exactly as it was designed to operate and that design goals are not lost or changed in the journey from design to deployment and operation.
In its automation of Day 2 operations, the software raises efficiency and results by providing observability and insights, incident management, change management, compliance and audit, and maintenance and updates. The toolset reduces the risk of problems developing in the network, provides early warning and detection of potential issues, and diminishes human error with change control and fast, all-network rollback.
The Apstra System provides a vendor-agnostic and consistent alternative to the management tools provided by individual vendors. Because it is compatible with the operating systems of the leading equipment vendors and meets industry standards for open networking, network architects and operators no longer need to acquire technical expertise for a vast array of proprietary software.
Simplifying the design and operation of the network is becoming even more critical in the cloud era as data centres evolve to become more highly distributed. Enterprises are demanding greater business agility but not at the expense of rising IT costs. The Apstra System enables a more deliberative and less labour-intensive approach that enables the enterprise to reduce costs, deployment times and outages at the same time as increasing management control, enabling the flexibility customers demand from their networks.
These requirements were clearly highlighted during the pandemic when businesses came under greater pressure to perform but were required to pivot and reconfigure networks (e.g., to cope with an unprecedented and sudden growth in the number of remote users).
In August 2020 Apstra launched the latest evolution of its flagship software, AOS 3.3, preparing for the rapid growth of demand for intent-based networking capabilities. AOS 3.3 introduced a wide array of operational and open-networking enhancements that enable enterprises to react more quickly to compressed timelines and unforeseen business shifts while delivering the best end-user experience.
These significant product enhancements dramatically increase the speed and reliability of how networks are deployed and operated in the data centre.
The key new features of AOS 3.3 are:
• Best-in-class EVPN-VXLAN fabric for the data centre
• Automation of all aspects of Day 0 network design using AOS Design Tools
• Dynamic configuration of the data centre network fabric, eliminating error-prone manual configurations
• Telemetry data analysis in real-time
2. How does the product or process break with conventional ideas or processes in its field?
The Apstra System differs from conventional data centre automation tools in the following respects:
• It obviates the need for a number of different vendor or process-specific tools, each with its own learning curve and associated human capital costs
• It enables a single, consolidated management approach for Day 2 operations instilled in the design intent and delivering full observability, intent-base analytics, root cause identification, and closed-loop assurance
• It relieves network operators from the need to focus on low-value repetitive tasks, therefore reducing the potential for mistakes and enabling greater productivity
• It provides the Intent Time Voyager feature for full network rollback in seconds, allowing fast recovery from change-related issues as well as quick business-driven revisions
• Its capabilities for change management and control provide validation, compliance, and audit with knowledge retention on what has been done to shorten timeframes for change from weeks to days or even hours
• By implementing intent-based principles, Apstra ensures a clear line of sight between the business aims of an organisation, the network, and its operation
• Apstra is fully programmable and interoperable with self-service systems, allowing the network to evolve at a pace dictated by the needs of the business, and independently of the development timetables of hardware/middleware vendors.
Since the launch of AOS 3.3 Juniper Networks has finalised its acquisition of Apstra, in a deal that is expected to redefine automation capabilities in data centres.
The deal will allow Apstra to bring its network automation, based on an open, multivendor architecture, to Juniper’s data centre networking portfolio.
The combined company will deliver what Juniper describes as a proven open, programmable, and highly scalable solution for next-generation data centres and cloud networks. This will give customers the clearest and quickest path to automate the data centre and introduce AI-driven operations.
The company is announcing new services extensions that make it even easier to deploy Juniper’s automation software in SONIC, VMware NSX-T 3.0 and EVPN-VXLAN environments. With these enhancements, the Apstra network, analytics, and security templates now include support for Juniper, SONiC, VMware, Cumulus, Arista Networks and Cisco Systems.
In addition, Juniper is introducing building block solutions that combine the Apstra System with Juniper switches to simplify design considerations to factors of business outcomes and capacity requirements. The solution series enable fast adoption of the most modern data centre operations without expansive design projects or lengthy deployment programs. New data centres can be up and running in hours deployed through Apstra’s zero-touch provisioning engine with auto generation of cabling and configuration blueprints.
3. How does it go beyond marginal improvements on something that already exists?
Self-operation is the current pinnacle of intent-based networking. Given a single source of truth and the ability to compare network status in real time, it becomes possible to incorporate deep analytics, machine learning and expert system techniques. These enable the system to not only detect changes in status, but also to analyse their significance. The Apstra System then either flags a specific warning or actually adjusts the configuration to return the system to its intended status. A self-operating network frees operational staff members from mundane, repetitive tasks and empowers them to monitor the network holistically. Operations that used to take hours or days are now performed in seconds, giving the enterprise an adaptive, agile network.
Combining Apstra with Juniper is a complete match of mission and vision – i.e., bringing simplicity to networking operations through AI-driven intent-based networking and automated continuous validation. With world-class software engineering that solves the difficult problems of scaling networks with performance, reliability and security, Juniper is leading the next wave of AI-driven networking, which complements an intent-based approach with even more proactive insight, automation, and self-driving network actions.
Juniper is committed to openness and multi-vendor interoperability with its highly programmable flagship operating system, Junos® OS, in leading key technology standards, such as EVPN, and delivering a suite of switching and routing solutions to the SONiC ecosystem.
Together Juniper and Apstra will deliver unrivalled intent-based networking and automated continuous assurance, empowering simplified operations on top of a leading data centre portfolio, which is differentiated by its range of fabric options, rich telemetry, and open programmability.
4. How do customers benefit from the product / process or innovation?
The benefits to customers of the Apstra approach are reduced cost, greater reliability, vendor choice (without fear of lock-in), reduced operational complexity, reduced risk, and enhanced flexibility.
The following cost benefits are available to customers:
• Reduce time to delivery by 90%
• Lower OPEX by up to 83%
• Lower capital expenses (CAPEX) by up to 60%
• Lower mean time to resolution by 70%
Customers report that the Opex:Capex (operational expenses to capital expenses) ratio varies depending on the organisation. In some cases, the ratio can be 30:1. It means organisations spend 30-fold for every $1 spent on Capex. This is due to several factors:
1. Device-by-device, manual configuration and management of networks
2. Long hours of troubleshooting as unable to identify the root cause of failure
3. Many tools that are disjointed and don’t provide the desired outcome
4. Require expertise on every switch OS and software version
5. Must depend on expensive professional services
Reduced cost is just one dimension of the benefits of the Juniper Apstra System, which reduces the distance between the business purpose of the network and the operational reality, ensuring that Juniper customers have full assurance of the capabilities of their network and can flex their networks to meet the needs of the digital transformation imperative as well as service new requests of customers in a repeatable way.
"The extreme demands of Switzerland's renowned financial services industry needs an infrastructure that guarantees the lowest latency and response times with high-cost efficiency and high levels of reliability," says Hanspeter Tinner, Chief Service Officer and Co-Founder of BeElastic. "This is only possible if the latest technologies are used throughout. The AOS end-to-end automation and simple operational model helps us deliver the lowest response times with the highest cost efficiency and reliability. And with their rapid feature velocity, we are confident they'll continue delivering on our, and our customers', requirements in the future."