The latest Apstra Operating System (AOS 2.1) includes intent-based analytics (IBA). Apstra, which has been a leader in intent-based networking, says its IBA allows network operators to specify exactly how they expect their network to operate and continuously validates their intent, generating alerts when it detects a deviation.
But how is this any different than the products that network performance monitoring (NPM) companies provide?
Mansour Karam, Apstra’s CEO, said IBA allows operators to query their networks in real time. AOS provides a real-time representation of all state in the system, including interfaces to physical elements such as switches and links. It also shows virtual elements, security zones, and applications: all part of the same graph.
“For example, with our graph representation, you can specify all the server-facing interfaces used by application x,” said Karam. “You can add more interfaces, add the leaf, add a virtual network. Then these interfaces will be added dynamically in real time without you having to do anything.”
The queries can be asked in declarative manner that specifies intent, similar to plain English. “If you want to answer questions about network problems, you need a dynamic query,” said Karam.
In addition, IBA has capabilities that cross other product categories besides network performance monitoring. Apstra says IBA can prevent a range of service level violations, including security breaches, performance degradations, and traffic optimization imbalances.
So AOS could end up competing against not only existing NPM products but also security products and traffic optimization products.
“Our approach is to solve a customer problem,” said Karam. “Our vision is to deliver an autonomous pod that kind of runs itself. We are addressing one use case — data center pod — and giving you all the components to deliver on that vision. The customer doesn’t have to use different components.”
Apstra’s AOS works via its device agents that convert device-level intent into specific APIs. For its intent-based analytics, Karam said, “We’re fully leveraging the device agents in the same manner.”
AOS 2.1 works across devices from both established vendors and open alternatives.
In addition to giving the ability to create customized queries, Apstra also provides customers with a catalog of IBA probe configurations for some common configurations.
“As we gain experience with customers as to what type of probes they would like, we’re creating a catalog of these config files to empower customers to select whatever probes they want — traffic probes, security probes, performance probes,” said Karam.