Apstra intent-based networking bridges the physical, virtual


Intent-based systems have been all the rage since Cisco announced its “Network Intuitive” solution earlier this year. For Cisco customers, its solution is certainly interesting. But what about businesses that want an alternative to Cisco? Or companies that want to run a multi-vendor environment?

Over a year before Cisco’s launch, a start-up called Apstra shipped the closed-loop, intent-based solution. It was designed to be multi-vendor in nature with support for Cisco but also Arista, Juniper, HP and others, including white box. Apstra operates as an overlay to networks built on any of the leading vendors to deliver intent-based networking in heterogeneous environments.

This week, Apstra announced the next release of its software, AOS 2.0, which addresses the gap that exists between physical underlay and virtual overlay networks, including VXLAN. I’ve discussed this topic with many network professionals, and there is a high degree of interest in using network virtualization, but the lack of visibility between the underlay and overlay is a huge deterrent. Without an understanding of the relationship between the two, network managers are faced with managing two separate networks — the physical network and virtual overlay.

Also, with this model, troubleshooting becomes extremely difficult as the virtual network is one big blind spot. Any application problems that occur in the overlay is, for all intents and purposes, invisible to the engineers running the physical network. The lack of visibility also creates security problems because malware or other malicious traffic could spread like wildfire across the overlay and be hidden from the security tools attached to the physical network. There’s an expression that you can’t secure or manage what you can’t see, and that’s certainly true for overlay networks today.

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