Apstra today announced updates to its vendor-agnostic, intent-based operating system that the company says offers “full transparency” into intent, topology, policies, telemetry, and how they relate.
“What was a black box, an opaque network, becomes fully transparent,” said Apstra CEO Mansour Karam. “Whether you are the network engineer or the IT team, you can ask any question about your network.”
The company’s original product, called the Apstra Operating System (AOS), has been generating buzz since its June 2016 launch because it is vendor agnostic and intent-based, which its founders say makes the system self-operating and more agile. The founders’ work history also doesn’t hurt: Karam is a veteran of Big Switch, CTO Sasha Ratkovic is a veteran of Juniper Networks, and chief scientist David Cheriton is the former founder of Arista and a first investor in Google and VMware.
AOS 1.2 allows network managers to perform normal maintenance actions by providing simple intent-based specifications. He likened it to a self-driving car: you tell the car where to go, and the car makes it happen.
The new AOS has an improved web interface, including new topology views. It also allows users to change any aspect of intent after deployment, and stage intent changes.
Customers want to make changes as risk-free as possible, Karam said. While the original AOS allowed network engineers to make changes by modifying the active blueprint, 1.2 adds a “stage blueprint.”
“On the stage blueprint you can make all the changes you want, and the system will do the testing to make sure these changes are consistent with each other and your actual infrastructure,” Karam explained. “Once pre-validation doesn’t show any errors, then you can deploy the service. You can also deploy in a piece-meal way. This staged blueprint takes a lot of the risk out of change operations.”
The update also allows users to customize every aspect of AOS, including the intent model, tracked telemetry, and vendor-specific device agents. And it includes enterprise platform features, such as the ability to backup any snapshot of the AOS server, upgrade to a newer version, and the ability to restore backup.
In a March blog post, Karam wrote about how intent-based networking works in real life:
You can now state your intent for the network e.g. “I’d like to connect 1,000 virtual machines in the most cost-effective way,” or “I’d like to connect 5 compute racks, and 1 storage rack with 1Tb/s of east west bandwidth.” … Once the network is operational, you can then make changes by stating your intent — “I’d like to swap a Cisco switch with an equivalent Arista switch;” or “I’d like to create a new virtual network.” In all cases, AOS takes care of the “how,” including generating cabling diagrams and specific configurations for all devices in the network.
A Gartner report “Innovation Insight: Intent-Based Networking Systems” said, “a full Intent-Based Networking System (IBNS) implementation can reduce network infrastructure delivery times to the business leaders by 50 percent to 90 percent, while simultaneously reducing the number and duration of outages by at least 50 percent.”