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Juniper confines SDNs to data center

Juniper's strategy will hurt least in its smallest market if software defined networking technology doesn't pan out

By , Network World
June 19, 2012 05:32 PM ET

Network World - Juniper is initially focusing its software defined networking (SDN) strategy on the data center, a market where it can do itself the least amount of damage if the initiative fails to pan out.

Switching makes up the least amount of Juniper's product revenue, at 12%. Routers, security and services are all greater contributors. Also, Juniper's share of the $6.57 billion Layer 2/3 data center switch market in 2011 was 3.1%, placing it fifth behind Cisco, HP, Dell and IBM, according to Dell'Oro Group. Juniper may have a tough time building on that this year as 2012 is expected to still see mostly trials for its QFabric switches, a platform that continues to have its skeptics.

WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS? What are the killer apps for software defined networks?

While the rest of the industry was fixated last week on Cisco's response to the SDN craze, Juniper quietly unveiled its own SDN strategy at its financial analyst meeting and at a trade show in Japan. A transcript from the financial analyst meeting can be found on the SeekingAlpha.com site.

Similar to Cisco's strategy, Juniper's keys in on a northbound API between the network devices and the orchestration layer in an SDN, and marginalizes the use of the OpenFlow protocol but not its role; a couple of key differences, though, is that Juniper is focusing its initial SDN efforts on data center only versus Cisco's five target markets, and plans on injecting programmability into one operating system versus three for Cisco. [Also see: "Cisco on why OpenFlow alone doesn't cut it"]

"If I am running on every one of these nodes a different operating system, it actually makes it quite hard to write a controller that controls all these things," Juniper CTO Pradeep Sindhu said. "So we believe that the fact that all of our equipment runs Junos actually makes it much, much easier for us to do it compared to our competition."

On targeting the data center with SDNs, Juniper says that market lends itself to the centralized analytics and network provisioning facilitated by decoupled SDN control. Also, an SDN controller can optimally exploit the "massive amounts" of horizontally scalable general-purpose compute power employed by the IT industry, Sindhu said.

"SDN is a recognition by the networking industry that not all problems can be solved by putting the functionality inside these network nodes, which are generally geographically distributed," he said.

Juniper can also hurt itself least in the data center if SDN commoditizes hardware, as some expect, or if implementations fail to work as advertised. But Juniper is also intent on using SDN as a way to build market share.

"SDN is likely to emerge in the data center domain first, and Juniper has a very small share of that relative to other domains that we play in," said Bob Muglia, executive vice president of Juniper's Software Solutions Division, responding to a question on commoditization during the financial analyst meeting. "So we see this as an opportunity for us to take a pretty aggressive posture and use the expertise we have in software to help us gain share overall and an overall larger part -- larger percentage of the overall addressable market."

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