Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Juniper Networks Gains New Automation Tools in Apstra Deal 

Juniper Networks acquisition of intent-based networking specialist Apstra this week gives it another set of tools for applying AI to automate network functions in evolving data centers and cloud platforms.

In an announcement Monday, (Dec. 7), Juniper (NYSE: JNPR) said it will integrate Apstra’s open architecture into Juniper's data center networking portfolio. Apstra supports the emerging Software for Open Networking in the Cloud, or SONiC, framework. Juniper's current framework is based on its Junos operating system aimed at enterprise data centers and cloud networks. The price tag and terms of the deal were not revealed.

Apstra’s intent-based networking scheme employs a network controller that acts as a traffic cop for network operations. The combination would deliver what Juniper Networks dubs “self-driving” networks. The intent of the software-defined approach is to divine the user’s business intent, then translate it into policies that can be automated and applied across enterprise networks.

The SONiC network operating system is used for network switching operations and management. Juniper and other proponents say it is fueling a “disaggregation movement” that allows cloud providers to leverage platforms from multiple IT vendors, transforming them into a single data center operating system.

The addition of intent-based networking also gives Juniper another automation tool it can offer data center customers for deploying services and managing operations as AI-based automation helps run next-generation data centers. The goal is to free IT operators from performing tasks like network configurations and troubleshooting that often run the risk of human error.

Source: Juniper Networks

“Adding Apstra’s intent-based networking and automated closed loop assurance advances our vision to transform data center operations,” Rami Rahim, the CEO of Juniper Networks, said in announcing the acquisition.

“Apstra is a great match to the open standards design and programmability of Juniper switches, including their native SONiC integration,” Manoj Leelanivas, Juniper’s chief product officer, added in a blog post.

The Apstra acquisition also reflects the growing enterprise trend toward incorporating AI-driven automation tools into data center operations. For example, Gartner predicts a doubling of automated network configuration operations by 2023, up from an estimated 30 percent earlier this year.

“Network automation and orchestration tools are moving from niche functions used by individual employees within [IT infrastructure and operations] to providing robust solutions that allow network operations to be increasingly automated,” the market tracker concluded in a recent market survey.

For its part, Juniper Networks said it would combine Apstra’s automation tools with its network switches that include EVPN-VXLAN fabric capabilities. The combination would allow customers to automatically deploy data center services and implement changes while advancing fabric management.

Juniper Networks, of Sunnyvale, Calif., said it does not expect the acquisition to materially impact its 2021 revenue.

 

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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