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Juniper snags Apstra in latest acquisition

The Apstra acquisition could help Juniper sell networking hardware and software to heterogeneous data centers and large-scale public clouds.

Juniper Networks plans to acquire Apstra, a technology maker focused on ensuring network configuration changes in the data center deliver the results intended by network managers.

On Monday, Juniper announced the acquisition of privately held Apstra, a pioneer in an industry concept known as Intent-based networking (IBN). Juniper did not release financial details of the transaction, which it expects to close in the first half of 2021. Apstra co-founder and CEO David Cheriton will join Juniper as chief data center scientist.

"I'm thrilled to be joining Juniper, where together we will continue to solve the toughest customer challenges with engineering simplicity," Cheriton said in a statement.

Apstra's AOS software operates within the network management layer. The product monitors hardware and software configurations in heterogeneous networks while also determining the impact of configuration changes. Apstra's competitors include Forward Networks and Veriflow.

Apstra has always highlighted its vendor-agnostic approach to network management. The company's software works with data center switches from Cisco, Juniper and Arista and various network operating systems, including Linux-based Cumulus and open source Sonic. This year, chipmaker Nvidia added the former to its portfolio through the acquisition of Cumulus Networks.

David Cheriton, co-founder and CEO, ApstraDavid Cheriton

Juniper could use Apstra as a doorway into corporate data centers running competitors' switches, IDC analyst Brad Casemore said. Juniper could pitch Apstra as a tool that makes it possible to add its products while keeping other hardware.

"I would expect that Juniper will use Apstra as an IBN insertion point in networks where Cisco, Arista and others are incumbents," Casemore said.

Also, Apstra supports VMware's NSX, a network virtualization overlay for the data center. "Juniper has indicated that it will continue to support and engage with customers running NSX," Casemore said.

I would expect that Juniper will use Apstra as an IBN insertion point in networks where Cisco, Arista and others are incumbents.
Brad CasemoreAnalyst, IDC

Apstra in the cloud

Apstra could be useful in Juniper's cloud ambitions. For example, the company could add Apstra to its management toolbox for Contrail Enterprise Multicloud, analysts said. The latter software manages network policies that control traffic flows between applications running on the data center and public and private clouds. Juniper's AppFormix product currently provides policy monitoring and network analytics.

"I will be watching to see how Juniper will integrate Contrail with Apstra for hybrid and multi-cloud networking scenarios," Casemore said.

Also, Apstra's support for Sonic is a cloud-focused integration. Initially developed by Microsoft for its Azure public cloud, Sonic is an open source operating system designed for large-scale cloud data centers.

"Apstra's recent push into Sonic gives it a big opportunity in cloud-scale environments," said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. "Juniper's going to get some footholds there."

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