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Startup Apstra launches distributed OS for managing multivendor network

Startup Apstra has launched a distributed network operating system that manages an IP fabric in a multivendor network.

Network automation startup Apstra Inc. made its debut with the launch of a distributed network operating system that monitors, manages and troubleshoots a data center network comprised of devices from multiple vendors.

Introduced this week, the Apstra Operating System (AOS) provides a single view of a multivendor network. AOS is software that can run on a virtualized x86 server.

Apstra, based in Menlo Park, Calif., claims to eliminate having to configure and troubleshoot devices separately within an IP fabric. The hardware used to handle transport Layer 3 traffic between application servers could be a mixture of proprietary switches from Cisco, Arista Networks or Juniper Networks and white box hardware running the Cumulus Networks OS.

A key component in AOS is a data store that continuously gathers information on the configuration of multivendor network devices and their actual states. The repository communicates through drivers installed on the hardware. If a driver is unavailable, then administrators can program the device into the data store through a REST API.

The AOS algorithms constantly compare how the device is configured to operate with its actual state. The software notifies network administrators when there is a discrepancy in case adjustments are needed. Administrators can set AOS to try to make corrections on its own.

"Over time [AOS] gets more information and more data about the environment, so it gets smarter," said John Fruehe, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, based in Austin, Texas. "Just like Netflix knows more about what you should watch based on things you have already watched."

How Apstra AOS differs from Cisco ACI

Apstra's approach to multivendor network management is different than products like Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which focuses on creating, deploying and managing policies that govern the operation of switches, firewalls and load balancers.

ACI is more of a routing infrastructure that runs only on Cisco Nexus switches. In comparison, Apstra, which does not manage firewalls or load balancers, is focused on multivendor network management, Fruehe said.

"The comment I hear from customers is that Cisco ACI really stands for all Cisco infrastructure," Fruehe said. "The real beauty of Apstra is that it does not require a particular vendor or type of hardware underneath."

Apstra founders include CEO Mansour Karam, a former Arista executive; CTO Aleksandar Sasha Ratkovic, a former Juniper engineer; and Chief Scientist David Cheriton, a Stanford University professor and a co-founder of Arista. Cheriton is the sole funder of Apstra, which describes itself as a vendor-agnostic network automation company.

"We're not seeking [venture capital] funding at this point," Karam said.

Apstra plans to make AOS available this summer. The company will base pricing on the size of the customer's network infrastructure and the use case for the software, Karam said.

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