Finally, A Vendor-Agnostic Distributed Approach To The Enterprise Network

Businesses struggle with the challenges of managing their networks, as the arcane and sometimes cryptic tools and commands that bring these devices to life and move data from point A to B are managed by a select few. The complexity of this task created an environment where things moved slowly, businesses were stymied when they tried to change, and suddenly the web giants like Google and Amazon were able to deliver a more flexible IT environment than the folks down the hall that actually worked for your company. Amidst all of this, vendors found that they could more easily lock in your business and dramatically raise the costs of switching, trapping businesses. This meant that when opportunity arises, instead of moving quickly, most businesses just watched it pass by them.

Network management needed to change, enabling a more holistic and intuitive solution, but what vendor would provide that for you? It’s not Cisco Systems’ responsibility to make Arista Networks’ products work better for you (or vice versa), and neither of these companies is on the hook if you want to bring in Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Juniper Networks or Lenovo networking products either. To fix the network management problem you need to take a step back—and up. Look at the network not as a collection of components but as a single entity comprised of many components from many vendors—all of which need to work together seamlessly. Our latest paper examines a new product that we believe can fill this gap.

This situation is very reminiscent of 1980s-era desktop computing. Back then each program had its own drivers for video, printers, mouse, etc. The system was literally flooded with all of these different files and needless hours of programming was spent not just creating them (on the developer side) but also managing them (on the customer side). GUI-based operating systems came along and changed everything. A single operating system provided drivers for all of the devices and delivered horizontal services (like printing) to all applications. This was infinitely easier to manage, and it allowed for the growth of an industry. This needs to happen as well for networks, making them more intuitive, easier to manage and most importantly more responsive to the needs of your business.

Apstra now has brought this same operating system concept to networking with the Apstra Operating System (AOS), which enables the network administrator to change how they work and allows them to change functionality quickly. This new product sits above all of the existing hardware and software, creating an abstraction layer that enables the network to be viewed as a single element. When every network device is independent, as the network grows each becomes less valuable. But as part of this holistic system, as the network grows each component actually becomes more valuable.


Apstra AOS Ecosystem (Source: Apstra)

Most importantly, this new system delivers intent-driven capabilities instead of rules-driven. Imagine trying to get from New York to LA. It is easy to say, “Get me there in the fastest manner possible for under $500” (intent-based) versus, “First look at American Airlines, then compare routes, is LGA>ORD>LAX faster than LGA>DFW>LAX or LGA>LAX, if so, look at the fares and if…” (rules-based). Most importantly, what if all of the air traffic is shut down and trains become a better option? Intent-based systems are inherently more flexible because they can look at a wider range of variables. Just look at how Uber and Lyft have changed transportation; now even Google Maps provides these options, giving you another option based on your intent. Intent-driven technology is soon to become the new frontier for management, extracting what you mean from what you say.

But today’s networking vendors have little motivation for making this a reality, right? No, not really. Because AOS sits above all of the networking hardware and software, it can be deployed without any of these vendors having to do anything. Apstra does all of the integration to make your pieces work together. After all there are some clearly established communications methods in the networking world, and Apstra leverages these to make all of your products work with their “network operating system”. Your network administrators can manage the network just like managing software updates for a computer, simplifying things and enabling the faster change that your business needs.

By optimizing management, Apstra can reduce risks, accelerate time to revenue and remove much of the complexity. With each administrator now able to manage more devices, you’ll have the ability to redeploy IT staff onto projects that have been held back for lack of resources, allowing you to accelerate your business.

Because AOS is vendor-agnostic, there is little danger of being roped into the next proprietary lock-in that simply limits choice down the road. With an abstraction layer on top of the current infrastructure and an ability to talk to any vendors’ products, Apstra has the ability to not only deliver true network automation, but also work and play well with others.

As we continue to hear from customers who need not only a better way to automate their network but also accelerate network changes that enable them to take advantage of new opportunity the capability of AOS is an important element to network management and automation. With the ability to act according to your intent instead of rules, the legions of Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Arista Networks and Alcatel-Lucent products can be brought together into a single entity, looking more like an operating system for the network. And once Apstra has tackled the network space, there is no reason to believe that this capability couldn’t extend out further, into the whole datacenter. Clearly exciting times lay ahead.