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The partnering strategy will be so key to that, especially with so many of the SDN startups that, even if they have shippable product, aren't really articulating partner programs.
We have over 1,000 partners here at the Global Partner Conference, and the primary objectives we have are to number one, educate them on our vision and view of what we define software-defined networking as, so they can be prepared for where we're going as a company.
It's important they know that so they can be attuned and take that forward. 2013 will be a year with product in the market; we're on a path to having some of our systems products and software assets reach at least a technical beta in 2013. Depending on where those go, there will be product in 2013. So this is the year when we have to educate them on how to be successful with our work in this area.
To be clear, though, we're not talking about an entirely new set of products. We've been talking about software in the domain of networking with Juniper for years, and this is an evolutionary path using your current product set.
It is absolutely an evolutionary step. You look at the progress we've made, and it's things like we have an entire router services business with software licenses that run on the routers. With the process that Bob [Muglia, Juniper software executive vice president,] is outlining, we're running those on x86 cards or running them on x86 servers attached to the routers, or even on x86 servers running the cloud. Much of this is how our vision for network systems become platforms.
In the past, those services were basically in a business model where they were sold as an embedded part of the system. It's much more flexible, moving forward, to leverage x86 processors for those services and turn them on in network equipment or turn them on in the cloud.
There's also a thought that network systems are going to go away. Well, no, things don't magically get connected -- the systems are still very important, as are the investments we're making in custom silicon. We still believe there are many areas in the network where the volume of traffic and performance characteristics require custom silicon for many years to come. So, our investment in the domain of the network will span the silicon, to the systems, to the architecture we bring to market.
How are the service providers coming at that architecture, specifically? For them, the network services themselves are the product they're selling.
No doubt. They have billions in infrastructure, so there's a way to enable an SDN approach that uses many of the same industry protocols and for which they don't have to rip our existing infrastructure. It'll be very complementary to what they've invested in already. You have to look at the solution holistically: It's not a separate thing; it's a core set of services embedded in a router. But now, we're dis-aggregating those services between the routing platform and the application. That gives those service providers maximum flexibility.
They're looking for ways to reduce cycle time, deploy services fast and do it in a way that reduces their operating expense. Much of that operating expense comes in the time it takes to test and physically deploy and leverage these things. Software automation allows them to speed time to market and reduce their overall OpEx to deploy services.
Do you think SDN will drive a major product refresh cycle or will it be more gradual, incremental updates via software?
It'll be that evolutionary thing, I think. It's not going to drive a massive need to do upgrades in the infrastructure. As long as the infrastructure uses industry-standard protocols, SDN is leveraging that. There are some software pieces that are going to have to be built, and that's what we've been building, in part through acquisitions.