Juniper Rolls Out SDN Controller, Software For Service Providers

Juniper Networks Sunday used the opening day of this week's Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona to unveil a line of software-defined networking technologies for the service provider market.

Juniper's news -- which includes a new controller and network management software -- rounds out a string of recent product launches from networking giants Cisco Systems and Alcatel-Lucent that were focused on network functions virtualization (NFV) and SDN solutions for carriers.

Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, said last week it's readying the launch of a new business unit dedicated to NFV.

[Related: New Juniper CEO Lays Out Restructuring, Cost-Cutting Plan]

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NFV and SDN are complementary, but different, technologies. As Juniper explained it, NFV focuses more on the optimization of network services for service providers, while SDN is more about the separation of the network control and forwarding planes in the data center. Both, however, are aimed at increasing network scale, automation and manageability.

Juniper said its NFV strategy is still underpinned by the Contrail controller it unveiled last year. "Contrail is really our platform for network virtualization for the data center network and for NFV," said Michael Marcellin, senior vice president, strategy and marketing, at Juniper. "It's really the front door to provide all of the service chaining that we offer."

This week's new SDN products, however, are designed to work alongside Contrail in service provider environments, Marcellin said.

These new products include Junos Fusion, network management software that lets service providers automate and control thousands of network devices, including core and edge routers, along with optical or mobile devices, from a single management plane. The idea, Juniper said, is that Fusion can reduce operational costs and complexity by "collapsing" these network devices into a single point of control.

Marcellin said Fusion can be used to manage not just Juniper devices, but those from third-party vendors, as well. To run it, service providers need to have deployed either Juniper's MX or PTX series routing platforms.

Secondly, Juniper rolled out its new NorthStar Controller, based on the technology it gained through its December acquisition of Wide Area Network Design Laboratory, or WANDL, for $60 million. NorthStar is meant to identify the most optimal path for traffic to flow within multivendor service provider networks, based on the carrier's set performance and cost requirements. While NorthStar is based on legacy WANDL network design and planning technology, Marcellin said Juniper took that technology and made it work in real time.

"When network changes happen, analytics get pulled and [service providers] can truly optimize and shape their networks dynamically," Marcellin said.

NEXT: Juniper's Service Provider Strategy

Juniper also introduced the CSE2000 Carrier Services Engine, a server platform for service providers. Carriers can use this, Juniper said, to virtualize network functions directly on a router, within their carrier central office, or on a standard x86-based server.

While the new Juniper SDN suite launched this week is targeted at carriers, Marcellin said it will still sell predominantly through partners.

"Even in the service provider space, there are a very small handful of customers that we don't utilize a channel or systems integrator partner for. Literally, it’s a handful," Marcellin said. "We are really dependent on channel partners and our larger strategic alliance partners, as well, to help bring these solutions to our customers."

In an interview with CRN at the Juniper Global Partner conference in January, Juniper executives declined to say what percentage of Juniper's service provider business currently goes through the channel.

Meanwhile, new Juniper CEO Shaygan Kheradpir stressed at the event that, given the industry's push toward cloud, the needs of Juniper's enterprise and service provider customers are quickly becoming one in the same.

While some Juniper partners tell CRN they are doing more business with service providers -- and that they are, in fact, seeing the lines start to blur between their service provider and enterprise customers -- there are still many Juniper partners who sell exclusively into the enterprise market.

For those enterprise partners, SDN has yet to become a widespread priority for customers, said Dominic Grillo, executive vice president at Atrion Communications Resources, a Branchburg, N.J.-based solution provider and Juniper partner.

"[SDN] is not really coming up, at least not in the enterprise area," Grillo said. "We have customers looking to make their network infrastructure cloud-based, so SDN might become something we have to embrace because of the competing factor. But it seems like something that's largely targeted at service providers."

Juniper said Junos Fusion and the NorthStar Controller will be available in the second quarter and the second half the year, respectively. The CSE2000 is available now.

Juniper's Mobile World Congress launches come just three days after Juniper unveiled a cost-cutting initiative and reports emerged suggesting Nokia was eyeing an acquisition of the company.