Juniper Steers Partners Toward SDN Opportunity

While Juniper's SDN strategy won't immediately include new product announcements, Juniper is rolling out a new software licensing and maintenance model it says will help solution providers make more margin on software integration. It also will be updating its platforms using assets such as the centralized SDN controller technology it bought with Contrail Systems in December.

Specific Juniper software licensing packages that allow Juniper software to be both scalable and transferable to any SDN networking approach will be rolled out throughout the coming year, Juniper said. The expectation is that Juniper's software sales model will have fully transitioned to the use of those packages by 2015.

It's time for partners to map out how they'll participate in the SDN paradigm shift, Juniper says.

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"The [SDN] hype cycle, frankly, started about a year ago. We're well into it now, and what you see from us, as a company, is that we've been very thoughtful about not just participating in the hype," Kevin Johnson, Juniper's CEO, told CRN in an interview. "We wanted to make sure we had clear substance and a clear view of what we were going to do with our engineering resources. So what we've been working on for the last nine months has had our engineering leaders defining the unique value proposition where this kind of technology can have the most impact."

"SDN is a major transformational shift that partners need to understand and be able to explain to their customers and cut through the confusion for their customers," Bob Muglia, Juniper's executive vice president, software systems, told CRN in a separate interview. "Understanding the software side of things is a very, very major aspect of how partners need to make investments in the way that they do business."

Juniper has gathered more than 1,000 top partners in Las Vegas this week for its second Global Partner Conference, where it's expected to set strategy for the coming months and re-energize the Juniper partner base following a challenging 2012 of mediocre earnings, layoffs and restructuring.

While the company has thus far been tentative in a segment of the industry where players have been firming up SDN strategies left and right, Juniper is laying out a four-step process for how it expects to address the SDN trend in the years ahead, and how that strategy will affect all of its major product lines, from service provider routing to network security and data center.

First, Juniper will centralize elements of network management and configuration technologies using Junos Space and separate how it defines Junos networking software into what it's calling four planes: management, services, control and forwarding.

Second, Juniper will use its forthcoming JunosV App Engine -- available starting in February -- to "untie" networking services and application software from underlying network hardware using virtual machines. According to Juniper, those new network application VMs will be able to run anywhere on a customer's network.

Third, Juniper in 2014 will launch the new Junos Services Platform, which will use the SDN controller acquired with Contrail in concert with the JunosV App Engine and work across multivendor networks. The Junos Service Platform is the Juniper SDN secret sauce; it will enable the "chaining together" of network applications, services, software VMs and legacy hardware into a more efficient infrastructure, Muglia said.

Fourth, Juniper will optimize its own hardware producers, such as its MX routers, to work specifically with JunosV App Engine and SDN concepts.

"This is all about how to manage various services in an integrated way," Muglia said. "This is a strong architectural underpinning for how the network will be built over the next 10 years. This is a huge opportunity for customers to manage their network in a fully cohesive way and allow it to respond dynamically."

The technology itself will evolve, Juniper executives said. Right now, it's crucial to nail the partner education piece.

"For partners that have expertise selling products and systems and hardware, they are going to have to build some muscle around software licensing," Johnson told CRN. "We're going to help them with that -- we're going to educate partners on how to do that. We want to make that an easy skill set: not only how to configure and price and sell systems components, but also how to configure and price and sell software licenses as well. That's an important thing for them to build."