Apstra’s Intent-Based Networking

Author
Peter Welcher
Architect, Operations Technical Advisor

This is one of several blogs about the vendor presentations during Network Field Day 19, which took place November 7-9, 2018. This blog contains a summary of the vendor presentations and any related comments or opinions I might have (I’ll share at least some of them).

If this blog motivates you to greater interest in what the vendor had to say, you can find the cleaned up streaming video of their presentations at the Tech Field Day YouTube channel, specifically the NFD19 playlist, or by clicking on the vendor’s logo on the main #NFD19 web page (linked above).

We’ve heard from Apstra before, and I’ve become somewhat of a fan. Multi-vendor automation at large scale (with a current focus on broadening its data center fabric automation). What’s not to like?

Apstra

Apstra is a hot network automation startup that started talking about “Intent-Based Networking” before that became a Thing.

Apstra now has some marquee customers and has been adding AOS features. AOS is a vendor-neutral platform for expressing intent, automating deployment, and managing, with their current focus being datacenter spine-leaf fabrics.

AOS supports features like VLANs, VXLAN, BGP EVPN, anycast gateway with ARP suppression, IP multicast, and VRFs. AOS caught my eye a while back as a possible alternative to Cisco’s fabric management tools, especially if one wants just fabric without security. DCNM LAN is Cisco’s alternative for that niche — or ACI and just not using some of the features.

One key difference is that AOS supports selected equipment from other switch vendors. Apstra considers that to reduce risk.

Presentation by Mansour Karam, CEO and Founder, Apstra

I’ll refer you to the online #NFD19 videos for Carly Stoughton’s whiteboarding overview. Also, for how DJ Spry leveraged sped-up screen cap automation to the tune of Benny Hill to emphasize how fast Apstra can deploy equipment (once that physical racking and cabling has been done). He then toured the UI some.

Rags Rachamadugu demonstrated Intent-Based Analytics, including how context enriches the analytics. The telemetry data is exposed via the API. There is a catalog of probes as well. Ones that I noted: mismatch of vSphere VLAN versus physical VLAN, MLAG or ECMP imbalance, hot / cold interfaces (versus normal traffic levels). We were told they’re all up on Github for community access.

Some comments along the way indicated that Apstra is focused on extending “intent” to VMware and to devices that attach to the datacenter fabric. I imagine we’ll be hearing more about that as AOS evolves!

Ryan Booth and Jere Julian (of NetworkToCode) discussed and demonstrated AOS and ServiceNow Integration. NetworkToCode can provide AOS / Intent-Based Networking (IBN) training and other services.

David Cheriton (Founder) wrapped up with an off-camera sneak preview roadmap. There is some more neat functionality coming!

Conclusions

Apstra is expanding / broadening functionality while expanding the scope of Intent-Based Networking (and Telemetry, and Analytics, and more).

Comments

Comments are welcome, both in agreement or constructive disagreement about the above. I enjoy hearing from readers and carrying on deeper discussion via comments. Thanks in advance!

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Hashtags: #CiscoChampion #TheNetCraftsmenWay #Apstra #NFD19 #Networking

Twitter: @pjwelcher

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