Juniper Gets 'New' With Data Centers
Juniper is calling it the "new network for the data center," and it's the sequel to the regular "new network" for service providers, which got announced in October. (See Juniper Takes Over the Network.)
What's key for Juniper is that it's avoiding a direct fight with UCS -- Cisco's all-in-one architecture that includes Cisco-designed servers. (See Cisco Dreams of Data Center Unity.) Rather than provide everything, Juniper is leaving the server and virtualization elements of the data center to partners like Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) (both of which have OEM deals for selling Juniper gear into enterprises) and VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW).
"They're trying to go about it from a different angle. It's a risk, but I think it's a wise risk on the whole, with their investment in the software space," says Ray Mota, an analyst with ACG Research .
Of course, there's hardware to be had, too. Today's announcement includes the new EX 4500, which carries 48 ports of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet. And the EX 8200, which is Juniper's core box for the data center, is getting a new module called the 40 XS, which carries 40 ports of Gigabit Ethernet and can also support 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports.
But Juniper's hardware, by itself, isn't knocking 'em dead, according to some observers.
"Juniper is far behind Cisco, Arista Networks Inc. , Force10 Networks Inc. , Blade Network Technologies Inc. , and Voltaire Inc. (Nasdaq: VOLT) on multiple dimensions such as channel, port density, enterprise and cloud server provider market awareness, technology, market share, etc.," analyst Nick Lippis of Lippis Enterprises wrote in an email to Light Reading before today's announcements. "They simply are just not interesting."
The soft sell
It would seem Juniper has a better chance at standing out with its software. The first "new network" announcement came with a heavy Junos component, including announcements of partners designing applications for the operating system. Juniper will carry that idea into the data center as well.
"They already know what to do in the service provider space, so they're trying to take some of that mentality and say these enterprise networks are becoming just as critical," says Ray Mota, an analyst with ACG. "But all of this doesn't matter unless you can manage the stuff better and secure it."
Mota is prompted to say that because of what's happened with virtualization in the past. As servers and applications became virtualized -- that is, located outside a company's own networks -- enterprises had trouble taking advantage of the technology. It didn't save any time or money until the right software tools were available.
The tools Juniper is announcing today are part of Junos Space, the company's program for promulgating more applications based on Junos. One example is Virtual Control, an application created with VMware to apply management and policy rules to Juniper switches.
Juniper is also offering Ethernet Design and Security Design, software for configuring Ethernet switches or security boxes automatically, rather than having to do it box-by-box. "When you think about network management today, it's sort of like a remote control for a TV or a set-top box. You point the device, and you send predictable commands," says Mike Banic, Juniper's vice president of product marketing for Ethernet platforms. "In the network, you've got all these things that look the same."
Another software tool, Service Insight, automatically identifies and (if it can) resolves problems in the network.
The bigger picture behind Juniper's data center pitch is the collapsing of the network into two layers rather than three, something it's talked about since introducing the EX line two years ago. (See Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching.) The data center network has access, aggregation, and core layers; the last two could be combined by using EX switches, Juniper says.
Next year, the company will claim to collapse the network down to just one layer, and that's where Stratus comes in. Unlikely to be announced before 2011, Stratus is a set of products, jointly developed with IBM, that Juniper is describing as a fabric for the data center. (See Juniper Strikes at the Data Center and Juniper's Ready for Stratus.)
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading