Juniper Splits Out Its Control Plane

Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) has developed a new approach to dealing with carriers' increasing demands for more scale and capacity in their core IP networks -- it has developed a completely separate control plane product that works hand-in-hand with its routers.

By housing the control plane functionality on a completely separate platform, the Juniper Control System (JCS) 1200, the vendor says it can free up more capacity on existing routers for packet forwarding. Such separation also enables network operators to scale their control and forwarding planes independently to meet their specific needs.

The JCS 1200, which hosts multiple routing engines, is housed in a 12-rack-unit chassis, runs the vendor's Junos OS to simplify integration with already-deployed Juniper routers, and is expected to be generally available from the second quarter of this year. Juniper says the product is currently in trials with a number of Tier 1 operators.

Each JCS 1200 has 12 routing engine slots that connect directly to any of its T-series routers. Because all 40G and 100G slots on the routers remain open to forwarding only, Juniper says that, when used in conjunction with the JCS 1200, its T1600 can provide forwarding capacity of 1.6 Tbit/s in three quarters of a rack.

The move is Juniper's latest attempt to win the hearts and minds of core IP routing users and steal a march on Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO): This isn't the first time the company has played the capacity and scaleability hand in the pitched battle with its main rival. (See Juniper Attacks Cisco's CRS-1 and Report: Juniper Rethinks the Core.)

But it's not as if Cisco is sitting on its hands: It also announced a new networking technology development today and plans to announce a "breakthough innovation" next week. (See Cisco Touts Chip Breakthrough.)

But Juniper says this isn't just about capacity. Juniper argues the real advantage of the platform comes in its handling of services. As carriers increase the number of services running over their networks, the argument goes, the ability to decouple the control plane portion will reduce potential bottlenecks.

"As new services are added, they are competing for control plane resources within the network," says Juniper's senior manager of service provider provisioning, Scott Heinlein. According to Heinlein, that makes scaling the control plane "a potential challenge for some networks."

Perhaps more importantly, the company says that making the core more service-aware can reduce the number of network elements. Rather than add more routing at the edge to support individual services, Juniper says the JCS 1200 will allow service providers to enable service-specific virtualization in the core of the network.

Alan Sardella, Juniper's senior product marketing manager for high-end systems, adds, "You don't have to add an entire piece of equipment for each new service." As a result, he says that adopting this new approach can ultimately result in network device consolidation.

Of course, there's a downside to all that, as pointed out by Infonetics Research Inc. principal analyst Michael Howard: "If what they're saying is true, this will help service providers use less of the more expensive router hardware for applications. In that sense, Juniper is cannibalizing its own router market."

But whatever Juniper may lose in the number of routers it sells, it hopes to make up for by taking market share from Cisco and other routing vendors.

Another advantage, according to Juniper, is faster service deployment. Because control plane resources are kept separate, Juniper claims, service providers can test and roll out new services much more quickly.

The new announcement fits in with Juniper's vision of a more service-aware network, which it says is helping to drive more intelligence into the core of the network and help the company land more new business. (See Juniper Fits Chunghwa's New Plan, Chunghwa Chooses Juniper, and Juniper Pushes Services Policy.)

— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading

douaibei 12/5/2012 | 3:47:03 PM
re: Juniper Splits Out Its Control Plane this is a very interesting apporach for a juniper network.

we already see the seperation of control plane and the forwarding plane. but it's first time we come to a routing solution.

I believe it will more like a T-MPLS approach or a PBB-TE apporach.

unfortunately you have to introduce a seperate machine which may cause more falure point in the network.

Good to keep eye on it.
douaibei 12/5/2012 | 3:47:01 PM
re: Juniper Splits Out Its Control Plane are you saying a sort of virtual routing across the network?

say: there is some connection between the edge/branch router which can talk to the PE, and the PE-CE connection will be a VR?

I believe the CRS can do the logic router which do the similar job, not sure the dirty IoS can do it or not.
CDPlayer 12/5/2012 | 3:47:01 PM
re: Juniper Splits Out Its Control Plane This is quite funny. I was just trying to finish an article (which I started about a month back - yes, I'm a slow writer), proposing consolidation of small branch routers into PE (or HO/CO) routers by extending big router's control plane to branches (instead of running routing protocols and managing branches as separate logical entities), and this announcement comes. :)

Anyway, will finish my write-up, eventually. :)

(I'm at http://telecomoccasionally.wor...)
CDPlayer 12/5/2012 | 3:46:59 PM
re: Juniper Splits Out Its Control Plane The idea is to hide the peer-peer relationship between PE and CE, and have it done "automagically". Using Ethernet for PE-CE connectivity is a key, as it requires (almost) no configuration for link layer to come up.

The concept can be further extended to multichassis PE, where two (or more) PE nodes look like one entity (recent example of this is Juniper's new EX line, which from the description can do that via 10GE internodal connection).

The next step from there would be to support dual-connected CEs. Possibilities go on.
chechaco 12/5/2012 | 3:46:47 PM
re: Juniper Splits Out Its Control Plane Are you familiar with Cisco's Management Clustering over LAN? If I remember correctly, Master can discover and control up to 16 devices on the LAN segment. Cisco used proprietary discovery and control protocols. Have you looked at work being done in IETF's TRILL WG?
In regard to Juniper's approach, I think, that it might extend lifetime of core routers, adds complexity and does not removes Control Plane from the router but only moves protocols outside of the node to the host. Similar to PCE work for (G)MPLS.
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