Juniper hones product development for cloud, intelligent networks

Juniper CEO Rami Rahim

Juniper Networks combined its hardware and software units to better align product development and share technology across products lines for cloud and intelligent networking.

By merging its Platform Systems Division and Software Solutions Division into the Juniper Development and Innovation business unit (JDI), Juniper can eliminate unnecessary organizational barriers in the company and build end-to-end systems that “crush operational expense” through automation, optimization and analytics, says Rami Rahim, executive vice president of the JDI. Rahim’s discussion with Network World is one of the first a high-ranking Juniper executive has granted since formation of the JDI.

“There’s a certain clarity around the company on what our mission is and our strategy, and we’re aligning our products and our go-to-market muscle along with that strategy,” Rahim said, referring the the formation of JDI to address the requirements of “cloud builders” and “high IQ” networks. “There’s tremendous opportunity to combine products together into solutions to better address customer requirements. One R&D organization really helps us.”

The JDI was formed under new CEO Shaygan Kheradpir and his Integrated Operating Plan (IOP). The IOP is intended to refocus the company on high growth segments in the networking industry, streamline R&D and go-to-market programs, drive efficiencies in all areas of company operation, and return capital to shareholders.

The JDI streamlines R&D. It will also help Juniper share technology among different product groups.

An example of that is the 100G interfaces on Juniper’s high-end SRX security platform, which leverage 100G silicon found on Juniper’s routing and switching products.

“It helps us keep up with the pace with the change in the industry,” Rahim said.

And that change is rapid and divergent. Customers are implementing fabric-based switching to make networks flatter to address east/west traffic flows between server racks, reduce latency, more tightly integrate compute and storage, and better support virtualization.

Juniper offers five or six different fabric architectures depending on customer need: Virtual Chassis, which binds its switches together into a single, logical switch; QFabric, its one hop, single-tier, single failure domain data center architecture; Virtual Chassis Fabric (VCF), which is a 1G/10G/40G optimized fabric that scales to 768 10G ports by combining Juniper’s EX and QFX top-of-rack switches into a single-tier, single logical switch; and leaf-and-spine two tier, and Layer 3 two- and three-tier architectures, which many in the industry support.

Juniper also offers which it calls a MetaFabric, which Rahim described as a framework for enabling rapid application provisioning within and across multiple data centers by pooling network resources based on Juniper’s QFX and EX switches, MX routers, SRX security systems and Contrail SDN controller, and partner products.

Customer demand is greatest for Virtual Chassis and QFabric because they’re older and have been established longer, Rahim says. VCF and MetaFabric were introduced late last year.

“VCF is relatively new, and more and more of our customers are moving to a Layer 3 leaf/spine architecture within the data center,” Rahim says. “Some of our largest customers are actually deploying MPLS technology in the data center and that again gives us another point of differentiation because we are leveraging our Junos software system.”

QFabric’s single-tier implementation “is not for everybody,” Rahim acknowledges, but it does give Juniper some market differentiation.

“There are a lot of players in the industry today that talk fabrics but really as far as single tier…there’s nothing else like it,” he says. “More of our customers are comfortable with the two-tier approach than a one-tier approach, but the one-tier really give us a point of differentiation right now in the industry.”

That differentiation comes down to the silicon that powers Juniper routers and switches as well. There’s been speculation that QFabric, which is based on merchant silicon, might attain a custom Juniper ASIC in a follow on generation, like the programmable ONE/Trio ASICs in the company’s EX9200 switch and MX routers.

Rahim downplayed that possibility.

“There’s a place for merchant silicon and for custom silicon across all of our product lines,” he said, “especially in switching. The programmability and high scale in our own silicon technology can add a tremendous amount of differentiation. But the key is to not reinvent something that already exists and we can buy off-the-shelf. We don’t need programmability in QFabric, which is designed for high scale and low latency. Programmability will sit at the edge of a QFabric.”

Rahim says Juniper’s current switching lineup, highlighted by the EX9200 and QFX5100, address a “very large segment” of the enterprise and service provider private, hybrid and public cloud data center market, and this is what helped the company grow its switching business 46% in the first quarter.

Juniper’s experience in data center fabric and automation technologies also catalyzed that growth, and helped win business in AT&T’s Domain 2.0 SDN project and with global bank UBS, he says. In the AT&T win, Juniper worked with the carrier in a DevOps model to align software development with operations and then quickly cut over to production mode.

In SDNs, Rahim says Juniper has 20 paying enterprise and service provider customers for its Contrail SDN controller, including CloudDynamics and CyberPort, and 1,300 downloads of its OpenContrail open source SDN controller.

Juniper is also paring its product line as part of the IOP. The company recently allied with Aruba Networks for wireless LAN integration with Juniper switches, and for joint development and marketing, a development some see as an eventual exit from internal WLAN development based on Juniper’s 2010 acquisition of Trapeze Networks.

There’s also speculation that Juniper may divest its access routing portfolio and its Junos Pulse mobile security management product line as part of the IOP. Rahim wouldn’t comment on company plans for these particular product lines but stressed that this assessment should be ongoing for any company.

“It’s very healthy for a company like Juniper to constantly evaluate and make sure the products we’re developing are aligned with our strategy and are meeting our financial objectives,” Rahim says. “We will make adjustments. Our wireless LAN products are still getting sold. But Aruba gives us the ability to offer different options for our customers, it strengthens our overall solutions. Security is a fundamental importance to our strategy at Juniper. We absolutely believe that the products we can offer across routing, switching and security help us address our customers’ most pressing requirements in the best possible way. Security is a critical ingredient of that.”

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