Juniper Networks outlines SDN strategy

Juniper Networks wants to split networking functionalities across virtual machines to give administrators more control and the ability to innovate

After a long wait, Juniper Networks has come to the tcable with its strategy for software defined networking (SDN) – the biggest trend affecting the networking industry today.

Details on solid launches were hazy, but a number of executives focused on the premise behind the products during a keynote speech at Juniper Networks' partner conference in Las Vegas this week.

“At Juniper, we think the impact of SDN will be much broader than others have suggested,” said Bob Muglia, executive vice-president of the software solutions division at Juniper. “It will redefine networking and create new winners and losers.

“We're embracing SDN with clearly defined principles, a four-step roadmap to help customers adopt SDN within their business and the networking industry's first comprehensive software-centric business model. We're incredibly excited about the value that SDN will deliver to our customers and are committed to leading the industry through this transition." 

The first step would be to establish a central network hub for management of devices, configuration and analytics, giving an overview of the network to help administrators.

Juniper wants to build virtual machines on top to take on the other functionalities or services required of a network, such as security or forwarding.

The theory is this would allow for quicker reactions to the ebb and flow of a network and allow administrators to change their set-up without major disruption. This is traditionally an area that has put IT departments off addressing network issues, even when underperforming.

The virtualised layer would run on Juniper’s JunosV App Engine, set for release this quarter.

Juniper Networks said this separation was “crudely accomplished in today's physical world” but, by using the right software for what it calls “SDN service chaining”, the time, cost and risk for customers to build or run better performing networks would be cut.

However, like its main rival Cisco, Juniper makes most of its profits from hardware sales and it still wants its routers and switches to have a part to play.

Despite wanting to follow its own software route, Juniper hasn’t entirely turned its back on the growing popularity of the open source SDN standard OpenFlow – which supporters say will commoditise network hardware – and will ensure its products are compatible.

But it wants its customers to look at technology from the recently acquired Contrail, which will be based on the border gateway protocol (BGP) already present in Juniper’s hardware, believing the pairing of its hardware and software together will boost performance even further.

"SDN promises a way for the networking industry to deliver two critically needed benefits to its customers,” said Pradeep Sindhu, co-founder and chief technical officer (CTO) at Juniper. “The first is the ability of vendors to deliver innovation at a faster rate and the ability of customers to absorb it at a faster rate. The second is a dramatic reduction in the operational cost of running a network, achieved primarily through simplification.

“Juniper pioneered the first step in the separation of control and forwarding functions in networking equipment. This is the next logical step in the evolution of networking technology."

To accompany the strategy, Juniper also announced a new software licensing scheme called Juniper Software Advantage. This will allow software licenses to be transferred between Juniper devices and industry-standard x86 servers, and be based on a usage model, making costs more flexible and scaling easier.

Read more on Network software