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Juniper Bets Big on White Box & NFV

Juniper threw ambivalence to the wind Tuesday and fully embraced white box networking and NFV.

Mitch Wagner

November 3, 2015

5 Min Read
Juniper Bets Big on White Box & NFV

Juniper has been ambivalent on virtual networks and white boxes -- until now.

The company boldly renewed its commitment to its proprietary architecture in March, with a new router, switches and software all based on the company's custom silicon and designs.

But since then, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) has also taken steps this year to embrace open networks.

Juniper threw ambivalence to the wind Tuesday and fully embraced white box networking, separating its Junos operating system from underlying hardware, and introducing NFV hardware and software platforms.

The company said Tuesday it's "disaggregating Junos from its underlying hardware" -- meaning they'll run independently of each other. You'll be able to run the Junos operating sytem on other vendors' hardware, and run other software on Junos hardware switches.

"We want anyone else's operating system to run on our hardware, and anyone's hardware to run our software," Mike Marcellin, Juniper senior VP and CMO, tells Light Reading.

Juniper switches are Linux-based and run the Open Compute Project open source Open Network Install Environment (ONIE), which makes them able to run other vendors' operating systems -- including Big Switch Networks , Cumulus Networks , and Pica8 Inc. , as well as open source apps, including firewall, analytics engines, deep packet inspection (DPI) and automation tools such as Puppet and Chef. "The customer can run the DevOps model and deploy the platform as if it were a server," Marcellin says.

Junos OS, meanwhile, can now run on the x86 platform -- including Juniper's own OCX1100 switch -- and is being revised to run on other white boxes. Juniper will also work with other vendors interested in supporting Junos.

As part of its support for disaggregated Junos, Juniper introduced the QFX5200 access switch, which runs the disaggregated software and supports speeds of 1 Gbit/s to 100 Gbit/s, including the emerging 25- and 50-GbE standards.

All the major networking vendors are grappling with changes driven by virtual networking and New IP. They're taking different paths.

Want to know more about SDN? Visit Light Reading's SDN technology content channel.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) CEO Chuck Robbins says he expects white boxes to coexist on Cisco networks. (See Cisco's Robbins Foresees White Box Coexistence.)

And Arista Networks Inc. CEO Jayshree Ullal said in an earnings call in August that the company doesn't see demand for white boxes from its customers. (See Arista Sees Weak Demand for White Box Switches.)

As for NFV: Juniper on Tuesday launched its NFV solution, which it calls Cloud CPE, which includes Contrail Service Orchestration software, to be available next month. That software provides Management and Orchestration (MANO) to coordinate and provide chaining for VNFs. "It allows the service provider to drag and drop service creation," Marcellin says.

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Juniper claims it has “the first production-scale NFV solution” for service providers, scalable to millions of subscribers, Marcellin says.

Juniper previously had a dozen VNFs available, including its vSRX Virtual Firewall and vMX virtual router.

Juniper boosted performance of its Virtual SRX firewall to claim quadruple performance in fewer cores than available from competitors. "Anyone can have performance with 100 servers, but you're not creating agility and saving costs," Marcellin says.

For running VNFs on customer premises, Juniper is introducing the NFX250 on-premises endpoint hardware for Cloud CPE, with high storage capacity to support multiple VNFs, both Juniper's and third parties'.

While many service providers prefer to run VNFs on the "dumbest, cheapest network interface at the CPE" they can get, the NFX250 is designed for service providers -- such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), with its Network on Demand service -- that require a smarter device to deliver services such as encryption and security needed on customer premises for government, financial services and similar enterprise customers.

Juniper is getting into a competitive NFV market. Hewlett Packard Enterprise , Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT), Overture Networks Inc. , Intel-backed Wind River Systems Inc. and RAD Data Communications Ltd. are among the many vendors offering NFV stacks. On the service provider side, AT&T, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), Masergy Communications Inc. and others are deploying services using NFV for agility.

Juniper's embrace of white box switches and NFV is part of a months-long series of steps in the direction of greater openness.

At Juniper's March launch of proprietary networking technology, Jonathan Davidson, EVP and GM of Juniper Development and Innovation, said the company is "not opposed to merchant silicon," but merchant silicon doesn't resolve the growth, scale and performance challenges customers face. (See Juniper Doubles Down on Custom Silicon.)

Juniper followed its endorsement of proprietary networks in March a few weeks later by drastically cutting participation in the OpenDaylight project. (See Juniper, VMware Step Back From OpenDaylight.)

But later, the company took steps favoring white boxes and NFV.

That began in March, as Juniper partnered with Mirantis on marrying OpenStack and SDN. (See Juniper, Mirantis Expand SDN Partnership

CEO Rami Rahm noted in July that its OCX1100, announced late last year without much fanfare, is an OCP-compliant white box solution. Rahm told Light Reading in an exclusive interview that he sees white boxes as a big opportunity. (See Juniper CEO Spies White Box Opportunity and Juniper Introduces Open Compute Switch.)

Likewise, Rahm said in an earnings call in July that NFV is a big opportunity for future growth. (See Juniper Looks to NFV for Growth.)

And AT&T earlier this month threw its support behind Juniper's Contrail networking, which uses its OpenContrail SDN controller. (See AT&T to Use Juniper's Contrail for Its Integrated Cloud.)

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— 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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