Juniper targets data-center management with Apstra upgrade

Apstra 4.2.0 includes intent-based analytics probes for improved telemetry and visibility into network operations.

Visualization of data in motion through a data center corridor of servers.

Juniper Networks is giving its Apstra software a boost with management features designed to make complicated data centers easier to operate. The vendor rolled out Apstra 4.2.0, which includes intent-based analytics probes for telemetry and network visibility as well as support for HashiCorp’s Terraform network provisioning tool.

Since it bought Apstra in 2021, Juniper has been bolstering the platform with features such as automation, intelligent configuration capabilities, multivendor hardware and software support, and improved environmental analytics, with the goal of making the system more attractive to a wider range of enterprise data-center organizations.

Apstra works by keeping a real-time repository of configuration, telemetry and validation information to ensure a network is doing what the organization wants it to do. Companies can use Apstra's automation capabilities to deliver consistent network and security policies for workloads across physical and virtual infrastructures.

In addition, Apstra performs regular network checks to safeguard configurations. It's hardware agnostic, so it can be integrated to work with Juniper’s networking products as well as boxes from Cisco, Arista, Dell, Microsoft and Nvidia.

With the latest enhancements, Apstra can provide a private data center automation experience on par with public cloud – where it’s just as fast and easy to spin up a new environment and get to work, wrote Samir Parikh, vice president of product management at Juniper, in a blog about the latest enhancements.

The package now supports an automated data center interconnect (DCI) feature to allow customers to more easily tie together multiple data centers into a private cloud, for example. 

“The software supports virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN) tunnel stitching, making it easy to integrate multiple data centers into a unified private cloud, and teams can use repeatable templates to quickly deploy standardized configurations across data centers and easily connect critical business applications across locations,” Parikh stated. “The same DCI automation also improves availability and resiliency with the ability to isolate domain failures, reducing the ‘blast radius’ of issues.”

The upgrade also adds improved, customizable intent-based analytics and telemetry to let customers more easily monitor network operations. 

“Teams gain deep visibility into the health and performance of multivendor devices and application flows traversing the network, and the ability to explore and visualize them via a no-code UI,” Parikh wrote. “These insights can accelerate troubleshooting, identify security and compliance issues and enable data-driven decisions to optimize performance, capacity and cost.”

A new system interface is aimed at making it easier to navigate through menus, wizards and graphical representations.

Apstra 4.2.0 supports more out-of-the-box device profiles and interface maps, interactive rack design interfaces, and zero-touch provisioning that require a minimal learning curve for customers, Parikh wrote. “Even junior-level staff can quickly get up to speed and start running the automated data center like seasoned experts,” Parikh stated.

The package also gets support for HashiCorp’s Terraform infrastructure-as-code tool for provisioning cloud and on-prem compute, storage, and networking resources. The idea is that customers can automatically push configurations to the data center through Apstra without any API programming, Parikh stated.

In addition, new Juniper Validated Designs let organizations simplify, standardize and easily replicate data center architectures to achieve hyperscaler-like efficiencies, according to Parikh.

Experts say Juniper’s Apstra enhancements will help customers streamline data center operations.

“The Juniper Apstra 4.2.0 release provides the flow data capabilities and validated design assurances key to simplifying data center operations,” said Ron Westfall, research director with the Futurum Group. The data flow capabilities can obtain granular information on network traffic flows, which is critical to attaining full network visibility and essential to troubleshooting network issues, Westfall said.

“Juniper Validated Designs (JVD) offer the data center building blocks, prescriptive blueprints, and risk mitigation features – such as guides for products, features, and tools key to creating repeatable data center fabric designs – that provide the portfolio foundation required to power reliable and qualified deployments managed by Apstra,” Westfall said.

In addition to the data flow and JVD features, the Apstra Terraform provider feature stands out, Westfall said.

“To automate network provisioning, Juniper offers a Terraform provider for Apstra that enables users to capitalize on common Terraform Hashi Configuration Language to configure Apstra,” Westfall said. “Now users can automate data center configuration and documentation across multi-vendor data center network fabrics, swiftly integrating Apstra data center fabric management with Terraform as well as DevOps/IaC/SRE [site reliability engineering] workflows.”

“Juniper needs to continue executing on its ‘Experience-First Data Center’ vision to further bolster Apstra's sales and marketing momentum, particularly its intent-based networking proposition underpinned by assuring closed loop validation and making private data center operations as easy as the cloud experience,” Westfall said.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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