Building a network fit for the future

Building a network fit for the future

Resilience is key when managing the pressures placed on the network due to Digital Transformation demands. Intelligent Data Centres’ Alix Pressley talks to Yarob Sakhnini – VP, Emerging Markets, EMEA at Juniper Networks, to hear how Juniper Apstra, a turnkey, multi-vendor automation solution, allows customers to design, build, deploy and operate data centre networks from a single pane of glass, enabling them to cope with Digital Transformation pressures on the network.

As Vice President Sales Emerging EMEA, what are some of the demands you’re seeing from customers across the Middle East region and how are you responding?

In today’s world, technology is vital for transformation, so connectivity and network reliability matter more than ever. Due to the uncertainty imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the reality of adapting to the ‘new normal’, more and more organisations are charting the course for their journeys towards cloud Digital Transformation – becoming ever more focused on sustainable business growth.

Juniper is witnessing demand for high-performance networking systems, powered by AI-enabled, cloud-delivered automation, in addition to the traditional constraints of networking that enable customers and partners to deliver automated, scalable and secure networks that connect the world and drive profitable business outcomes to leaders across enterprise and service providers.

How do your solutions boost reliability and reduce complexity in data centres and how do you work with customers to deliver this?

As organisations explore the cloud types that are best suited to their needs, they are faced with an array of cloud types. While moving all or part of their business to the cloud, the cloud will prove optimal for simplifying day-to-day administration and costs.

Complexity grows with the number of connected devices, users and applications. It is critical to build a network that’s made for the future. Juniper’s network solutions help to simplify and automate daily network operations, increase service reliability and free up resources for innovation and, as a result, drive superior experiences for our customers.

Tell us about the Juniper Apstra software solution – how does it automate and validate the design, deployment and operations of your customers’ data centre networks?

Juniper Apstra, an intent-based software solution, automates and validates data centre network design, deployment and operations across a wide range of vendors. With support for nearly any network topology and domain, Apstra delivers built-in design templates for creating repeatable, continuously validated blueprints.

Juniper Apstra combines a single source of truth with powerful integrated analytics and root-cause identification, enabling network professionals to quickly find and resolve issues. In addition, Juniper’s switching, routing and security platforms deliver a scalable data centre foundation with resilient fabrics and inherent threat prevention. 

Juniper Apstra was built from the ground up to address this new era of operations. Apstra Freeform aims to unify experiences across vendors and automate key data centre workflows as the single source of truth for data centre configuration.

Freeform builds upon Apstra’s powerful intent-based networking capabilities for full life cycle data centre management across a range of data centre topologies and vendors, enabling a reliable user experience that encompasses the following key features:

  • New reference design covering any topology. With this new software release, Apstra simplifies IT operations by extending its intent-based networking capability to any protocol, any topology and any network domain. Customers can now choose the architecture that fits their business needs while taking advantage of Apstra capabilities.
  • Reliable operations. Apstra’s role as the single source of truth enables data centre designs to be applied consistently, every time. Closed-loop feedback provides IT professionals with reliable operations across disparate infrastructure.
  • Value now accessible to more customers. As part of this new release, Juniper is introducing a new Apstra licensing model. Freeform extends Apstra capabilities to significantly more use cases. Customers can now choose from three licensing tiers with the option to seamlessly upgrade at any time as needed.

To what extent does the Apstra solution offer visibility over the network and how important is this?

Apstra provides visibility into the entire network, cutting through ‘data fog’ with analytical probes and root cause identification. This visibility dramatically accelerates tech support and problem resolution. Apstra also provides incident management, change management and compliance and audit tracking, as well as maintenance-mode capabilities to shorten maintenance windows. The Time Voyager feature stores configuration history, making it easy to revert to a previous network state (even in a multi-vendor environment) if a change causes unexpected issues.

How have digitisation/Digital Transformation demands placed pressure on the network and how have you responded?

Digital Transformation constantly puts pressure on the network to support new technologies. With enterprise networking, Digital Transformation applies technologies that improve the IT experience to drive business value. Digital Transformation reflects constant change management. As organisations seek to grow, they need innovative technology to support their business. It means more pressure on the network to support the technology – and more on network managers who must learn new skills and find new ways to interact with the business.

The network is under continual pressure to accommodate new technologies as part of the Digital Transformation process. Digital Transformation in corporate networking refers to the process of implementing technologies that means enhancing the IT experience in order to generate business value. Digital Transformation reflects constant change management, reiterating the point above in regard to increased pressure on the network and thus, on network managers.

What are some of the trends you’re seeing across EMEA with a focus on modernisation and automation of data centre infrastructure – do these trends vary in the different regions?

Some of the trends modernising the data centre infrastructure landscape are: 

Server virtualisation

Server virtualisation permits data centres and service providers to house multiple users on a single server by segmenting servers, contrary to the traditional, inefficient way of issuing one server to each user. The virtualisation also facilitates scalability as the workloads are distributed across multiple servers.

This model effectively works as a cloud model where the service provider can parcel out data storage and processing power on an ‘as required’ basis. Virtualisation also optimises efficiency by making sure that the resources are being utilised to their fullest.

Edge Computing

Centralised data processing becomes inefficient and economically unviable as the number of connected devices increases. Edge Computing is a data centre architecture that utilises the processing power of devices on the network Edge for resolving actions and requests.

Edge data centres bring down latency and improve the overall performance of all the connected IoT (Internet of Things) devices. The users also experience less service interruption.

Edge Computing is one of the most prominent technological developments for data centres.

Hybrid cloud

Private cloud offers excellent control and security, while public cloud offers expansive computing powers.

With a hybrid cloud architecture, service providers can keep and manage critical data and resources on secure private servers and move them to a public server for different processing requirements.

Data analytics is becoming an integral part of businesses. An architecture that provides easy and secure access to cloud-based data services is paramount to a successful business.


Unprecedented times such as the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the adoption of automated processes and remote management.

With companies aiming to achieve higher productivity and efficiency while optimising human resources, data centre automation will play a vital role in the future. Moreover, automation gives workers more time to focus on other critical tasks.

How can your customers use Juniper Apstra to automate the entire network life cycle using a single, turnkey system for design?

Juniper Apstra, a turnkey, multi-vendor automation solution, allows customers to design, build, deploy and operate data centre networks from a single pane of glass, simplifying and automating data centre operations. Apstra provides a singular view into the relationships and interdependencies between millions of data centre elements. With continuous real-time validation, Apstra enables IT teams to instantly pinpoint and quickly resolve issues across all infrastructure silos, regardless of vendor or hardware.

Apstra manages the entire network life cycle, giving organisations the ability to easily expand and scale their network, as well as extract meaningful device telemetry. Apstra keeps organisations’ intent in check with the actual status of the network, providing them with actionable insights into their network to ensure that their goals are met.

How does Juniper data centre solutions work with Juniper Connected Security to deliver a Zero Trust data centre and how much of a priority is this?

Juniper data centre solutions works with Juniper Connected Security to deliver a Zero Trust data centre that safeguards users, applications, data and infrastructure across all network connection points. Juniper Connected Security helps organisations build threat-aware networks to keep attackers at bay and keep the network clear for business-critical traffic.

What will the data centre of the future look like and how will you continue innovating to meet the needs of your customers?

The switch from on-premises data centres to the cloud has enabled companies to offload a lot of the complexity involved in maintaining a data centre, providing access to computing, storage and network as a commodity. Yet this switch has created other challenges for companies, which may be using multiple cloud providers while still maintaining or implementing on-premises solutions to host legacy applications, or for niche use cases, such as Edge or high-security requirements.

New data centres will need to be highly flexible to accommodate many different environments – public cloud providers will be a central part of this future.

For certain use cases, on-premises infrastructures might prove to be more economically sound than their public cloud counterparts.

Another attribute of advanced data centres should be their ability to be distributed to reduce outages and data loss by avoiding single points of failure. Hyperconnectivity enabled by 5G is pushing the boundaries. As data is increasingly produced and consumed at the edge, future data centres will serve more and more devices at the edge: data closets in retail stores and on factory floors, street furniture in smart cities, parking sensors, video surveillance and self-driving cars.

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