Juniper Continues Shift Toward NFV With Virtualized Routing Platform

Juniper Networks this week continued its pivot toward network functions virtualization with the launch of a virtualized version of its flagship MX 3D Universal Edge series routers.

Juniper said the new software-based routing platform, called the vMX 3D Universal Edge, can run on any standard, x86-based server, and is designed to help carriers and cloud providers spin up services in a faster, more flexible model.

Steve Shaw, director of service provider marketing at Juniper, said the new vMX software will help Juniper better target the entry-level service provider market because of its "pay-as-you-grow" licensing model.

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"This lets us scale down, and lets us more cost-effectively address the entry-level or low-end part of the market and give our customers and partners much more flexibility in terms of how they deploy routing capabilities," Shaw said.

Because it's entirely software-based, vMX lets service providers quickly scale out to meet customer demand while still delivering the full feature set of the hardware-based MX line, Shaw said. For high-volume workloads, service providers can scale across both the hardware and virtualized MX platforms.

vMX runs Junos OS, Juniper's core networking operating system, and can be managed by Junos Space, the same network management platform used for legacy Juniper routers, switches and security devices.

The vMX line is designed for carriers and service providers embracing what's known as network functions virtualization (NFV), a technology similar to software-defined networking (SDN) that is turning the core functions of networking gear into software that can run on commodity hardware, according to Shaw.

Telecom carriers are especially embracing NFV, as they can use the technology to accelerate their delivery of new services and compete more effectively against "over-the-top" content providers such as Google or Skype.

In addition to its MX line of routers, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper earlier this year introduced a virtualized version of its SRX series services gateway called FireFly.

Frank Jadevaia, president of InterCloud Systems, a Shrewsbury, N.J.-based Juniper partner, said virtualized networking solutions such as vMX are a "huge" differentiator for service providers, allowing them to drastically accelerate both their time to market and time to revenue with new services.

"[Service providers] can self-provision their own services if they want to or need to, so essentially services can be turned up extremely quickly," Jadevaia said. "In the old days, you had to buy the equipment, you had to have a huge staff, you had to implement it, roll it out -- we were talking months to put forth new applications. Today, with virtualized firewalls, routing, switching ... these kinds of services can be rolled out in days and weeks, instead of months."

Jadevaia applauded Juniper's recent investments in software, noting that virtualization is extending rapidly beyond servers and compute and into the network.

"When you look at Juniper, they are really transforming from that hardware and network plumbing provider to a software provider, running applications on x86 servers that are completely virtualized," Jadevaia said.

Other networking vendors, such as Juniper rival Cisco Systems, also have started selling software-based versions of their gear to align with the SDN and NFV trends. Cisco, for example, has a virtualized version of Nexus, its core data center switching platform, called the Nexus 1000V.

Juniper this week also expanded its Contrail lineup of SDN solutions with the launch of Contrail Cloud, an OpenStack-based software platform for orchestrating and managing cloud resources across compute, networking, storage and virtualization environments.

Lastly, Juniper rolled out Junos Continuity, a new tool that lets network administrators add new hardware features without having to perform a full Junos OS upgrade.

Juniper said Contrail Cloud will be available by the end of 2014. vMX will be available in the first quarter of 2015, and Junos Continuity is slated for availability in March.