Juniper Networks today laid out the details of its strategy around the software-defined network. This comes about a month after Juniper announced plans to acquire SDN outfit Contrail Systems.
Today’s discussion, which took place at Juniper’s annual Global Partner Conference, also included the announcement of a new software licensing and maintenance model called Juniper Software Advantage, which allows for the transfer of software licenses between Juniper devices and industry-standard x86 servers.
SDN is a new network architecture that applies to data centers, enterprise networks and carrier networks, addressing all parts of the network, be they wireless or wireline. The idea behind SDN is to make networks more agile so they can easily adapt to the requirements of the applications and services they deliver.
“This transformation is one of the biggest things we will ever see,” said Bob Muglia, the executive vice president of Juniper’s software solutions division.
Muglia today explained that the company’s SDN strategy is based on the following six principles, which in Juniper’s own words involve:
1. Cleanly separating networking software into four layers (or planes) – management, services, control and forwarding – providing the architectural underpinning to optimize each plane within the network.
2. Centralizing the appropriate aspects of the management, services and control software to simplify network design and lower operating costs.
3. Using the cloud for elastic scale and flexible deployment, enabling usage-based pricing to reduce time-to-service and correlate cost based on value.
4. Creating a platform for network applications, services and integration into management systems, enabling new business solutions.
5. Standardizing protocols for interoperable, heterogeneous support across vendors, providing choice and lowering cost.
6. Broadly applying SDN principles to all networking and network services including security from the data center and enterprise campus to the mobile and wireline networks used by service providers.
Juniper aims to enable its customers to embrace these principles by following these four steps, which in the company’s own words are:
Step 1: Centralize network management, analytics and configuration functionality to provide a single master that configures all networking devices. This lowers operating cost and allows customers to gain business insight from their networks. Juniper Networks Junos Space applications can enable customers to begin taking this step today.
Step 2: Extract networking and security services from the underlying hardware by creating service virtual machines. This enables network and security services to independently scale using industry-standard x86 hardware based on the needs of the solution. This next generation of programmable networks will be introduced with the JunosV App Engine, scheduled to be available in Q1 2013. This step is supported by Juniper Software Advantage.
Step 3: Introduce a centralized controller that enables multiple network and security services to connect in series across devices within the network. This is called SDN Service Chaining – using software to virtually insert services into the flow of network traffic. Service chaining functionality is crudely accomplished in today’s physical world using separate network and security devices. With SDN Service Chaining, networks can dynamically respond to the needs of the business. This step will dramatically reduce the time, cost and risk for customers to design, test and deliver new network and security services. Juniper Networks anticipates delivering SDN Service Chaining functionality in 2014 utilizing the SDN controller technology acquired from Contrail, together with the evolution of the JunosV App Engine.
Step 4: Optimize the usage of network and security hardware to deliver high performance. While SDN steps one through three enable new network and security capabilities, optimized network and security hardware will continue to deliver 10 times or better performance for critical networking functions than can be accomplished in software alone. The combination of optimized hardware together with SDN Service Chaining allows customers to build the best possible networks. Juniper MX Series and SRX Series products will evolve to support tomorrow’s software-based Service Chaining architecture, assuring customers that investments made today can take advantage of the new capabilities delivered by SDN now and in the future.
While many industry players will tell you they consider OpenFlow as a component of SDN, Muglia seemed to distance Juniper from OpenFlow, say it’s a protocol that Juniper will support, but adding that it’s just a small piece of SDN and not a very important one.
What Muglia did seem excited about was Juniper’s proposition that customers pull services and network management capabilities out of network elements and instead run them as virtual machines on x86 servers. He indicated this will allow for “truth in management” and will mean that “the device is no longer the master.” However, he added that while software will play an increasingly larger role in networking, hardware will continue to be critical into foreseeable future. At that point, he mentioned that while layer 7 services can run on general purpose x86 servers, functions like forwarding packets and flows may be best served by ASICs, which are optimized for that kind of thing and can deliver an order of magnitude better performance for applications and services that require it.
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Edited by Rich Steeves