Juniper Doubles Down on Custom Silicon

In an effort to pit a grim year behind it, Juniper introduced a new router based on new chips, new switches, as well as security and management services.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

March 12, 2015

7 Min Read
Juniper Doubles Down on Custom Silicon

SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- Juniper Innovation Showcase -- After stepping on a rake and hitting itself in the face last year, Juniper gathered press and analysts together on Wednesday in an effort to show the company is unbloodied and unbruised.

As part of their efforts to signal that the good times are back, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) executives introduced a range of new products and capabilities, namely: the Converged Supercore Architecture, a service provider core IP network product based on the PTX core router that boasts "expanded software-based traffic optimisation" courtesy of the company's NorthStar Controller; the QFX10000, a new line of spine switches along with enhanced Junos Fusion configuration and management software; and ExpressPath service capabilities for Juniper's physical and virtual SRX firewalls.

Additionally, Juniper executives declared triumphant loyalty to its custom silicon in an industry where merchant silicon is gaining traction.

The Converged Supercore platform and updated PTX Series router line cards are based on new ExpressPlus custom silicon, while the QFX10000 switches use the vendor's own new Q5 ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit).

"We're not opposed to merchant silicon," said Jonathan Davidson, EVP and GM of Juniper Development and Innovation. "If merchant silicon was able to resolve [the challenges] our customers are facing around growth, scale and performance, we would use it. But quite frankly it doesn't."

Juniper says its new ExpressPlus custom silicon supports full IP routing and MPLS, improves performance fourfold and triples efficiency compared with the previous generation Express chipset. It enables 500Gbit/s throughput on the new PTX5000 and is 400 Gigabit Ethernet-ready, which means that when the 400 GigE standard is ratified Juniper will be able to use the same chip in a 400 GigE platform, Davidson said.

The QFX10000 spine switches also use custom silicon, the Q5. This, said Davidson, will enable seamless migration from 10Gbit/s to 40Gbit/s to 100Gbit/s Ethernet in a fixed 2RU form factor, while also offering the highest 100GigE density in the market today. The new switches include two chassis-based platforms -- an 8-slot and 16-slot -- that, Davidson claims, offers 2.5 times greater density than competitive switches from Arista Networks Inc. .

When Torryon Coleman, senior director for Cox Communications Inc. business and backbone network operations, took the stage, though, it was the need for automated management that he wanted to talk about.

"We went through an unexpected rough patch maybe five years ago. I characterize it as the traffic monster," Coleman said. Cox saw 50-60% growth year-over-year. Juniper provided Cox with improved hardware to keep up with the load.

Find out more about key developments related to the systems and technologies deployed in data centers on Light Reading's data center infrastructure channel

"There were times, I'll be honest with you, I would go home and my teenagers would be on the Internet watching YouTube, and it would be frustrating," Coleman said. "They were the monster."

Automation helps service customers better, countering the increased complexity that is caused by scaling the network, Coleman noted. He compared automating management to using spellcheck in email, noting that an error in a CLI [command line interface instruction] can create huge problems.

Automation is necessary as network operators need to do more during maintenance windows, Coleman said. Business customers demand uptime "and kids don't go to sleep at night -- they stay online," Coleman added.

"We're trying to get to the point where we have self-healing networks," Coleman said, "where the network knows the fault and it self-corrects. 'You had some packet loss going on, we routed around it, and it's good.'"

Packet and optical are interdependent and need to be managed together, Coleman noted. "You're treating them as individuals but they are actually one ecosystem." Cox hopes to adopt packet-optical technology in the near future.

Next page: We are family

We are family
Davidson warmed to the packet-optical subject. "Family includes IP and optical," he said. "But you need to make one meal for the family, instead of making individual meals for all the kids."

He turned to the audience of analysts and tech journalists. "I know some of you parents do that. Everybody should eat the same meal. I just want to say that. It's important." (As long as that meal isn't chosen by the kids each time, he forgot to add.)

Davidson jabbed his finger in the air to make the point. I don't think he was just talking about packet-optical metaphorically -- I think he was also literally giving parenting advice.

To enhance automation, Juniper upgraded its Junos Fusion software to provide a single point of management inside the data center infrastructure. It enabled what Juniper calls "virtual buffer," to reduce the strain from deploying new workloads, such as Hadoop, on the infrastructure. These new applications can result in microbursts of traffic on the network and Junos Fusion enables top-of-rack switches to manage those loads.

In addition, Juniper extended its Junos DevOps suite with new hardware interfaces and extensions to the Cloud Analytics engine to support the QFX10000. It also announced ExpressPath for SRX5000, a 1Tbit/s firewall with 80% reduced latency, to protect virtual machines as they're instantiated on the network.

Juniper sees a market opportunity around security in service consumption and automation, Juniper security CTO Chris Hoff said. "Typically, security has been orchestrated, provisioned and configured by what I call 'the meat cloud' -- humans," Hoff said. Automation allows customers to create their own security policies using open standards and reduce manual intervention in securing networks.

But the main focus at the Wednesday event, which Juniper dubbed the 2015 Innovation Showcase, was the event itself. After a 2014 that started with a pie-fight and ended with a pratfall, Juniper needed to look professional, clearly explain a winning strategy and a plan for executing it, and appear strong and articulate.

CEO Rami Rahim is the third person to occupy the CEO office in less than a year. His predecessor, Shaygan Kheradpir, took over January 1, 2014, faced a fight from activist investors Elliott Management only days later, realigned the company to satisfy Elliott's concerns, laid off staff and shuttered business units, saw quarterly revenue ups and downs, and then, just when things looked like they might settle down, quit in November following a "review by the board of directors of his leadership and his conduct in connection with a particular negotiation with a customer."

Has the company recovered?

"It was a year of realigning our strategy, of restructuring, of extracting inefficiencies," Rahim said. "I honestly feel extremely good about our position right now in the industry."

He added: "Where we are right now is exactly where I want to be in our ability to make decisions quickly, to execute on a compelling strategy, and ultimately to innovate."

With Wednesday's event, Juniper made a show that its leadership has a firm hand on the wheel. Now it needs to demonstrate that it's steering toward a desirable destination, and not into a swamp. That's going to take time. Ask us again in a quarter, or a year, whether the company is back on the road to success.

More about Juniper:

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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