Juniper’s New Access Switch Goes ‘Head To Head’ With Cisco Catalyst As Vendor Combines AI, SD-WAN

Fresh off its acquisition of 128 Technology, the networking giant is combining AI and SD-WAN , as well as announcing a new access switch that will compete directly with the Cisco Catalyst 9300 series, Juniper tells CRN.


Less than two months after closing its acquisition of networking software startup 128 Technology, Juniper Networks is revealing its first set of solutions combining its Mist AI engine with 128’s SD-WAN technology.

The three new and updated offerings will more tightly integrate AIOps, security and troubleshooting across the WLAN, LAN and WAN, Jeff Aaron, vice president of enterprise marketing for Juniper Networks, told CRN.

Juniper is combining SD-WAN with Mist AIops. Specifically, the company is adding 128 Technology’s Session Smart Router (SSR) for SD-WAN with its Marvis VNA technology, which will let customers set, monitor and enforce service levels across the WAN while also proactively detect anomalies and troubleshoot Session Smart SD-WAN environments, Aarons said. Customers will be able to ensure end to end service levels across the WAN, LAN and WLAN, he added. The newly-combined offering will be available during the first half of 2021.

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Juniper Networks closed the acquisition of Boston-based 128 Technology in a move to boost its enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) and edge capabilities in December for $450 million.

128 Technology’s SSR is very unique to the SD-WAN space, Aaron said. Instead of optimizing tunnels for traffic like some of its competitors in the SD-WAN space, like Cisco Viptela or VMware VeloCloud, 128 creates connections at the session level so that IT administrators can optimize performance and applications at a more granular level, he said. “It gives you much more visibility into the user experience at the session-level, which perfectly ties into our vision in bringing that data into the AI engine and the cloud for troubleshooting,” Aaron said.

On the wired side, Juniper is unveiling a new addition to its EX series of secure access switches with the EX4400, which has been optimized for the cloud with security and AIOps. The EX4400 will let IT teams design a network fabric that extends from the data center to the campus core, as well as distribution and access layers, like all EX access switches, the EX4400 contains Mist AI. The latest switch will be generally available March 2021, according to Juniper.

Juniper had a record year for campus and branch switching in 2020, Aaron said. “The company booked more EXs in 2020 than Juniper has in any year to date. A big part of that was our AI,” he said.

The company’s EX4400 are taking aim at Cisco’s wired portfolio, Aaron said. “These are really going directly head-to-head with the Cisco Catalyst 9300,” he said. “In addition to being born with Mist cloud for AI and troubleshooting, but it’s also a modern, best-in-class platform that can support up to 3,300 flows, which is an order of magnitude more than what anyone else can support both for security and telemetry data.”

Juniper hopes to continue the momentum with its wired portfolio by coming out of the gate with a strong hardware platform and management environment in 2021. “We expect to really hit the gas on the huge success we saw in 2020 with our campus branch,” he said.

Juniper is also further “mistifying” its flagship SRX Series of secure branch gateways. In 2020, the company added WAN assurance and its Marvis virtual networking assistant to the gateways. Now, the series can be on-boarded and configured using Mist AI and the cloud. Juniper customers will be able to perform simple branch router and secure connectivity configuration functions through the same platform as wired and wireless access, which streamlines operations, the company said. The enhanced SRX Series will be available in the first half of the year, Juniper said.

“The goal is to take all our newer solutions and legacy solutions and move them under the Mist AI engine and cloud so it‘s one platform, one experience, for our customers,” Aaron said.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper acquired Mist Systems in August 2019 for $405 million for its AI chops.

The new offerings, combined with Juniper‘s larger portfolio of AI-powered WAN, LAN, and WLAN products are giving partners an end-to-end portfolio to sell, Aaron said.

“We want [partners] to be able to say: ‘If you want a great experience from the moment your users connect to the network and accessing applications, and all along the way be able to troubleshoot and find security threats, only Juniper packages this all together,’ Aaron said. “We’ve seen seeing a lot of success there since bringing on Mist.”