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Article written by Samir Parikh, VP of Product Management, Juniper Networks. 

There's a constant need for developers and engineers to support these sprawling infrastructures, all while skilled people become harder to find. There's also relentless pressure to move faster—to keep growing, keep innovating and keep the business ahead of the competition.

Several automation tools purport to help solve these problems, but most fail to address the biggest factor in automation success: users. At Juniper Networks, we do automation differently. The pioneer of the industry intent based multivendor fabric automation solution, Juniper® Apstra, focuses on Experience-First data center automation. With intuitive graphical interfaces, no-code templates and repeatable blueprints, anyone can use automation—without advanced programming or Command-Line Interface (CLI) knowledge. Now, with the latest Apstra improvements and integrations, we're breaking new ground in automation once again, making private data centers as easy as cloud.

Today's new Apstra release delivers:

  • A better automation experience, with new user interface (UI) improvements and automated data center interconnect (DCI).
  • Increased visibility, with multivendor flow data and intent-based analytics to help optimize performance, security and more.
  • Fast and reliable data center operations using Juniper Validated Designs (JVDs).
  • Simpler, more consistent cloud control, with the ability to fold more third-party tools into a unified cloud management framework.

It's a better way to automate. And it's why Apstra is such a fast-growing automation solution in the market.

Building a Better Automation Experience

Most automation tools feel like they're designed for expert developers—not the people tasked with actually using them. In some cases, they're complex "DIY" toolkits that require extensive knowledge of multilayered architectures, diverse technologies and protocols and advanced programming languages and CLI. In a recent Analysys Mason survey of organizations investing in data center network automation, 55% of those going the DIY route said that, if they could do it all again, they would choose a different solution. At the other end of the spectrum, some vendors offer proprietary automation solutions that lock you into using their equipment or make it incredibly difficult to interoperate if you don't. In many cases, automation has simply become the new vendor lock-in.

Apstra takes a different approach, offering automation that is:

  • Reliable: In real-world data centers, speed is a function of predictability and repeatability. Apstra provides validated templates and guardrails to make sure automation is designed right the first time, so teams can stamp out architecture blueprints repeatedly with confidence.
  • Intent-based: Apstra is the industry pioneer in intent-based networking. Teams can work at the level of "what" (for example, "Set up a new server") and Apstra takes care of the "how", dynamically configuring the network to achieve that outcome. This approach allows almost anyone to build and use automation, without extensive network training or advanced programming skills.
  • Multivendor: Apstra's unique multivendor capabilities continue to provide incomparable benefits to customers. That's a huge benefit and not just for negotiating hardware pricing. When teams can use any vendor's devices without having to know proprietary interfaces or CLI, everyone can become a rockstar, dramatically improving overall performance. Managers can gain more choice in who they hire, since they don't need to find experts in a particular vendor's equipment. Their teams can also expand faster, without getting held up by supply chain delays. With data center designs that work with any underlying fabric, some Apstra customers open request for proposals (RFPs) and award the business to whoever can deliver the equipment first.
  • Secure: The Juniper Connected Security portfolio features strong integrations into the data center, allowing customers to expand the scope of automated operations in ways that other vendors can't match. Plus, they can implement a Zero Trust data center that safeguards users, applications, data and infrastructure across all network connection points, including switches, routers and firewalls.

Now, we're building on these longstanding benefits with new Apstra enhancements that make private data centers as easy to operate as the cloud.

What's New: Bringing Cloud Agility to Private Infrastructures

Public cloud has set a new standard for agile, automated IT management but there remain many areas where it's just not a good fit. Those with experience know that cloud gets expensive quickly. It's also not an efficient solution for workloads with very high security and/or data sovereignty requirements. All of which means that most organizations will continue to rely on private or hybrid environments that just can't match the simplicity and speed of a hyperscale cloud, until now.

With new features and enhancements, Apstra can provide a private data center automation experience on par with public cloud—where it's just as fast and easy to spin up a new environment and get to work, including:

  • Simplified user experience: Juniper continues to refine Apstra's intuitive, user-friendly interface, making it even easier to navigate through menus, wizards and graphical representations. With more out-of-the-box device profiles and interface maps, interactive rack design interfaces, zero-touch provisioning and more, there's a minimal learning curve. Even junior-level staff can quickly get up to speed and start running the automated data center like seasoned experts.
  • Integrated DCI: Apstra supports automated data center interconnect (DCI) with seamless virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN) tunnel stitching, making it easy to integrate multiple data centers into a unified private cloud. Teams can use repeatable templates to quickly deploy standardized configurations across data centers and easily connect critical business applications across locations. The same DCI automation also improves availability and resiliency with the ability to isolate failure domains, reducing the "blast radius" of issues.
  • Enhanced telemetry, analytics and multivendor flow data: Building on Apstra's powerful graph database and intent-based analytics (IBA) framework, the telemetry collected can now be customized to gain visibility into any network data. Teams gain deep visibility into the health and performance of multivendor devices and application flows traversing the network, and the ability to explore and visualize them via a no-code UI. These insights can accelerate troubleshooting, identify security and compliance issues and enable data-driven decisions to optimize performance, capacity and cost.
  • Juniper Validated Designs: JVDs are rigorously pre-qualified, tested, well-documented data center fabric solutions with appropriate product selection. In addition to the base JVDs, we also offer Juniper Validated Design Extensions, which integrate other products—both Juniper and third-party. With JVDs, customers can assure that their deployments are done correctly from the start, reduce the risk of costly mistakes and ensure optimal network performance.
  • Third-party Integrations: More businesses want programmatic, structured ways to manage the data center fabric—especially those using DevOps and site reliability engineering (SRE) approaches. Now, Apstra makes it easy to fold data center automation into the same infrastructure-as-code (IaC) framework used for the rest of the cloud environment. With expanded Terraform support, customers can seamlessly connect their data center fabrics with a wide range of third-party services, cloud platforms, security solutions and management tools.
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