Apstra Week1 - My Thoughts

Wow, what a week to start my new role at Apstra!

First Cisco announces their Intent Based Networking Solution (IBNS) Network Intuitive, the same week I accept my new position. And now it appears every vendor is starting to rebrand their “SDN” products as IBNS. I think I jumped into the middle of this at an exciting time!

Ive always been a big fan of Apstra and their IBNS approach to DC networking. Im sure just like most, my opinion of IBNS has shifted and changed since I first heard the term over a year ago. But I agree with the principle and feel its the right direction for the network industry.

Im not writing this post to comment or criticize any of the recent announcement or try and convince anyone that IBNS is the solution for your network. The focus of this post is to express my inital thoughts on my first week with the company and what I see most important moving forward for Apstra and IBNS as a whole. 

Im also not going to spend time digging into what IBNS is, so if you want to get a base understanding of IBNS check out the latest Packet Pushers Podcast. My buddy Phil Gervasi (@network_phil) also has a great introduction as well.

Or just google “Intent Based Networking”, everyone is talking about it now.

Why I moved to Apstra

Over the past several years I have shifted my focus from traditional Data Center networking into network automation and data analytics. At my previous role I focused on closing the gap between what traditional network monitoring tools could provide and what us network engineers  wanted. We used automation tools to improve data collection and troubleshooting sessions during outages and also started integrating telemetry collectors to obtain real time data. 

I learned very quickly, this task was not as simple as it sounds, especially for a network engineer. But I knew this was the right direction and seeing companies like Apstra, Cumulus and others focusing resources on these efforts validate my views. I was sold and started to gain a passion for this stuff.

I learned a ton about network automation and analytics from these projects and was even a guest on Packet Pushers Datanauts to talk about the current state of network automation. There is still a lot of improvements the network industry needs to make and its going to take time. But its moving in the right direction and I feel Apstra is a tool to help facilitate that change.

There is a good amount of talk about IBNS right now and many differing views on the subject. IBNS is the new buzzword and its going to get diluted just like SDN, and that's OK. The important take away from this is we must improve the visibility into our networks and better monitor the current state of the infrastructure holistically. 

I have always felt automation and telemetry data analytics is key to this shift. This is not a new concept. Hell, data collected via snmp, syslog, netflow/sflow, etc have been around forever. We have always had programing languages like python to help us write scripts to collect this data. But its just never come together for us network engineers.

With tools like Netmiko, Ansible, NAPALM along with vendors providing better means to collect data and state via an API, the average network engineer is just now able to start sinking their teeth into this stuff and seeing that it is possible for us to improve. We are starting to realize we can do it ourselves, we just need the right tools to help get us going. 

So when talks with Apstra got serious about me joining the team I could not pass it up. I'm going to be able to take everything I have been focusing on over the past several years and help progress other engineering teams down their journey with both IBNS and telemetry data analytics.  

What I'm excited about

I spent my first week in Silicon Valley at the Apstra headquarters getting ramped up on Apstra as a whole. I can't talk specifics but whats in the works and the vision of Mansour Karam and the Apstra team is awesome. Im excited for what's to come and that I get to be a part of it. 

Will we solve all of the network problems today? Nope. Apstra is not a silver bullet, “Single Pain of Glass” solution. But it will make great strides in simplifying the engineers job, for deployments and day-two operations such as 3am troubleshooting sessions. And its only going to get better!

Im excited for this shift in my career and the chance to help grow a great product and vision. Im also looking forward to helping the community grow and further our progression into automation and tooling. For this to happen there is a lot of work ahead, and its time for me to roll up my sleeves and do my part!

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