Juniper Networks Embraces Open Source Hardware With Newest Switch

Juniper Networks on Wednesday unveiled a new data center switch based on open source hardware from the Open Compute Project, in a bid to better target the large cloud providers and Web 2.0 companies embracing the "white-box" switching model.

The new switch, called the OCX1100, consists of an Open Compute Project hardware design that can run either Juniper's own Junos network operating system or third-party software. According to Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper, the OCX1100 is the first switch in the industry to mix Open Compute Project hardware with legacy vendor software like Junos.

Founded in 2011, the Open Compute Project is a Facebook-led industry consortium that applies open-source principles to make data center hardware design as efficient as possible.

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The networking technology emerging from the Open Compute Project is designed to be open and disaggregated, meaning the network software for switches, routers and other gear is unbundled from the hardware. That's also the model used for "white-box" switches, which are based on merchant hardware and that give organizations a choice of software.

The white-box model contrasts sharply with that of traditional networking vendors like Cisco and, until now, Juniper, whose switching hardware and software come tightly integrated.

Large cloud providers and Web 2.0 companies like Google and Facebook have embraced white-box solutions in an effort to make their networks more flexible and avoid vendor lock-in. But, according to Juniper, not all organizations have the robust IT footprints needed to deploy and support white-box switches, or to develop the software that runs on them.

That, Juniper says, is where the OCX1100 comes into play: It gives cloud providers greater flexibility, while Juniper still handles the support, said Jonathan Davidson, senior vice president and general manager of Juniper's Security, Switching and Solutions Business Unit.

"Juniper will provide support for both the hardware and Junos OS," Davidson told CRN in an emailed statement. "If a customer chooses to use a third-party operating system on the hardware, we will continue to support the hardware and work with the customer on their specific needs."

Chris Becerra, president and CEO of Terrapin Systems, a San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider and Juniper partner, has made a big push to include more open networking solutions in Terrapin's portfolio over the past year. To that end, he applauded Juniper's move to use open source hardware with the new OCX1100.

"I like the direction Juniper is going versus some of the other old guards," Becerra said.

Juniper said it's working with original device manufacturer (ODM) Alpha Networks on the OXC1100 hardware design, which has already been submitted to the OCP for review. The switch runs a Linux-based version of Junos and includes a range of open software interfaces and capabilities, including Python, which allows custom scripts and applications to interact with Junos, Juniper said.

Approval of the OCX1100 design, and availability of the switch, is expected by the first quarter of 2015.