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Apstra Inc. has upgraded its distributed network operating system to extend its management and troubleshooting capabilities to data center networks servicing legacy software that companies cannot easily replace.
The network automation startup introduced this week version 2.0 of the Apstra Operating System (AOS). The company plans to make the software available in mid-October.
Last summer, Apstra made its debut with the release of AOS 1.0, which provides a software console for configuring and troubleshooting network devices from multiple vendors. The first iteration of AOS supported Layer 3 switches through a virtual extensible LAN overlay.
AOS 2.0 extends the software's capabilities to Layer 2 switches, which are typically older hardware directing traffic to and from legacy software. Such environments are typical, for example, in insurance companies and financial institutions, according to Apstra.
AOS 2.0 combines Layer 3 and Layer 2 infrastructures through tunneling protocols that let the latter run on top of the former, said Mansour Karam, CEO at Apstra, based in Menlo Park, Calif.
"From an [older] app perspective, you think it's all Layer 2," Karam said. "Effectively, what's happening is an L2 packet is running on top of an L3 network, but it has no idea it's doing that."
As a result, Apstra can provide a single console for monitoring and troubleshooting Layer 2 and 3 devices. "The network team, using one tool, will be able to operate all that," Karam said.
Apstra won't appeal to all companies
Apstra-managed consolidation of L2 and L3 networks will appeal to some organizations, but not others, said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC. "As always, much depends on their application environments, prior infrastructure investments, openness to change, and the skill and comfort level of their IT teams -- particularly their network operators."
To be successful, Apstra, which competes with VMware's NSX, Pluribus Networks and Big Switch Networks, will have to convince network managers to choose them instead of larger vendors, such as Arista, Cisco and Juniper Networks, Casemore said. All those incumbents "are positioning their offerings for data-center-network automation or policy-based intent."
The latter refers to a relatively new architecture, called intent-based networking. IBN products use centralized software to tell programmable switches how to handle application traffic. The technology, which is also used to configure firewalls and load balancers, replaces the less flexible command-line interface used to configure and manage most data centers switches today.
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