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Juniper Networks Launches Apstra Expansion For Adaptable Data Center Management, Automation

Gina Narcisi

‘The freeform reference design is an ‘anything goes’ reference design. This is all about is expanding the goodness of Astra now to everyone … [instead of] a data center reference design that’s a heavily curated experience with guardrails,’ Ben Baker, Juniper’s cloud and data center leader, tells CRN.

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Juniper Networks is keeping Apstra true to its vendor-agnostic roots with an update that will let enterprise and service provider customers manage and automate their data center operations, regardless of topology and protocols used.

Apstra Freeform, unveiled on Thursday, is the latest expansion to Juniper’s multivendor data center automation and assurance platform that it acquired in 2021. The software helps businesses minimize the time and costs associated with deploying and managing their complex data center networks.

“Pick your protocol. The freeform reference design is an ‘anything goes’ reference design. This is all about is expanding the goodness of Astra now to everyone … [instead of] a data center reference design that’s a heavily curated experience with guardrails,” said Ben Baker, senior director, cloud and data center for Juniper Networks.

[Related: Juniper Networks’ Rami Rahim On Apstra, ‘Experience-First’ Networking and How Juniper Mist is Taking Off ‘Like A Rocket Ship’ ]

The Apstra Freeform reference design will help automate data center workflows as what the company calls the “single source of truth” for data center configuration. It will do this by extending its intent-based networking capabilities for full data center management across a range of data center topologies, network domain and vendors, according to the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based networking giant.

Many data center architectures don’t fit neatly into existing reference designs. A company may have made a business decision to use certain protocols or topologies, or have legacy data center sprawl thanks to an acquisition, Baker said. Freeform can help combat these issues because it supports any data center architecture, topology, or protocol. “Apstra has been designed to support all of these issues,” he added.

The software is coming in handy for enterprises, cloud and service providers grappling with supply chain issues. Some customers have begun deploying secondary infrastructure vendors’ technology in place of their existing, primary products due to shipping delays and shortages of their preferred products and components, Baker said.

This multivendor capability not only is helping to smooth out supply chain issues, but it’s also helping in the training of new IT staff, Baker said. “Unlike virtual machines, people can’t just easily go from Cisco, to Juniper, to Dell, or to Arista, but when you have this multi-vendor data center fabric management system like Apstra, you can manage switches from all these different vendors,” he said.

By extension, Apstra’s software can also help plug in gaps for end users dealing with staffing or talent shortages, he added.

Many Juniper partners have found success in campus and branch networking with Mist, Juniper’s AI-powered networking technology it acquired in 2019. Baker likened Apstra to Mist in the data center.

“[Partners] that have their foot in the door with their customer with Mist can say: ‘Hey, Mr. Customer, did you love what Mist has done to your campus and branch? Well, Juniper has this fantastic data center automation portfolio. Do you want to take a look?” he said.

As part of the release, Juniper is introducing a new Apstra licensing model, giving customers a choice between three licensing tiers with the option to upgrade as needed, Juniper said.

Customers now have access to Freeform as part of Apstra 4.1.1, the latest version of the software. Juniper Networks last year released Apstra 4.0, the first software release since Juniper acquired Apstra five months earlier.

Gina Narcisi

Gina Narcisi is a senior editor covering the networking and telecom markets for CRN.com. Prior to joining CRN, she covered the networking, unified communications and cloud space for TechTarget. She can be reached at gnarcisi@thechannelcompany.com.

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