Juniper today made a big push into virtual networks, cloud and DevOps, including the launch of a virtualized software version of its flagship MX Series 3D edge router.
Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) claims the MX Series 3D Universal Edge Routing platform, available as a virtual router in Q1 2015, is the "first full-featured carrier-grade virtualized router," scalable from inexpensive x86 servers to Juniper's high-performance proprietary hardware. It runs Juniper's Junos OS and supports Junos Trio chipsets.
The router is built for the cloud, orchestratable by OpenStack and Juniper-sponsored OpenContrail and manageable by Junos Space.
Juniper also introduced Contrail Cloud, a "new OpenStack-based software platform for cloud resource orchestration and lifecycle management, bringing together network, storage and virtualization," the company said in a statement.
Contrail Cloud works with Contrail Networking (formerly Juniper Networks Contrail SDN Controller) to enable the delivery of turnkey NFV solutions, for which Juniper is partnering with Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM), Canonical and other companies. Contrail Cloud will be available at the end of 2014.
Also, Juniper introduced Junos DevOps capabilities to deliver a "programmable foundation for network infrastructure," the company said in a statement. As part of Juniper's new DevOps capabilities, Junos Continuity will allow network operators to add hardware features and upgrades without having to update the operating system version. Continuity will be available in March. Juniper is adding support for configuration management tools including Puppet, Chef, and Ansible, as well as programming languages Ruby and Python, to unify IP and IT. (See Introducing 'The New IP' .)
Embracing virtual networks is a risky proposition for network hardware vendors such as Juniper. Proprietary networking hardware is far more profitable. But Juniper sees an opportunity in expanding network demand -- networks are going to get bigger at a faster rate than margins will shrink.
"More people are buying more router functions and more capabilities and putting them in more places than ever before," says Steve Shaw, product marketing director for Juniper. In this new environment, network operators demand a greater variety of price points. "We'll find people buying more routers and putting them in more places because it's more affordable." And network operators will still require high-performance proprietary hardware at the high end.
Juniper's strategy isn't unique. Relying on the growing networking market to offset shrinking hardware costs is similar to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s Application Centric Infrastructure strategy. Cisco expects global cloud traffic alone will increase 4.5-fold from 1.2 zettabytes in 2012 to 5.3 zettabytes by 2015, with global data center traffic tripling to 7.7 zettabytes annually by 2017. (See SDN: A Leveler for CSPs)
Also, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) has a similar scalability pitch for its Vyatta Controller open source OpenDaylight -based SDN controller. Like Juniper, Brocade brags that its software scales from cheap hardware to high-end gear gear. For example, Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) benchmarked the Vyatta 5600 vRouter at 80 Gbit/s, matching the performance levels required for carrier applications and setting a benchmark that supports NFV deployment. (See Brocade Debuts OpenDaylight SDN Controller and Telefónica Proves Brocade Router Performs for NFV.)
Juniper says its vMX router provides 160 Gbit/s of unidirectional throughput. The MX also supports carrier-grade features like MPLS, and tools for provisioning, system setup and management that competitors lack, making its products ideal for the "hard-core service provider" market, Shaw says.
"Brocade is fun to play with but what [hard-core service providers] need is proven network functionality," Shaw says.
The announcements come as Juniper faces market difficulties. Juniper is one of many vendors eating lean rations due to weaker-than-expected carrier demand. Earnings declined 5% year-over-year and 8% sequentially to $1.126 billion in Juniper's most recent quarterly results announced last month, when the company also announced its second round of cost cuts this year. Juniper brought in a new CEO in January, Shaygan Kheradpir, who announced that the company is refocusing to serve "high IQ networks" and "cloud builders." Despite last month's disappointing results, Kheradpir said that plan is on track. (See Juniper Pummeled by Weak Carrier Demand, Juniper Plans More Cuts and Juniper Bows to Investor Pressure, Refocuses.)