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Juniper Contrail battles Cisco ACI, VMware NSX in the cloud

Juniper Networks is extending the Contrail network virtualization platform to public clouds. The Juniper Contrail Enterprise Multicloud will compete with Cisco ACI and VMware NSX.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Juniper Networks has extended its Contrail network virtualization platform to multicloud environments,...

competing with Cisco and VMware for the growing number of enterprises running applications across public and private clouds.

The Juniper Contrail Enterprise Multicloud, introduced this week at the company's NXTWORK conference, is a single software console for orchestrating, managing and monitoring network services across applications running on cloud-computing environments. The new product, which won't be available until early next year, would compete with the cloud versions of Cisco's ACI and VMware's NSX.

Also at the show, Juniper announced that it would contribute the codebase for OpenContrail, the open source version of the software-defined networking (SDN) overlay, to The Linux Foundation. The company said the foundation's networking projects would help drive OpenContrail deeper into cloud ecosystems.

Contrail Enterprise Multicloud stems, in part, from the work Juniper has done over several years with telcos building private clouds, Juniper CEO Rami Rahim told analysts and reporters at the conference.

"It's almost like a bad secret -- how embedded we have been now with practically all -- many -- telcos around the world in helping them develop the telco cloud," Rahim said. "We've learnt the hard way in some cases how this [cloud networking] needs to be done."

Is Juniper's technology enough to win?

Technologically, Juniper Contrail can compete with ACI and NSX, IDC analyst Brad Casemore said. "Juniper clearly has put considerable thought into the multicloud capabilities that Contrail needs to support, and, as you'd expect from Juniper, the features and functionality are strong."

Cisco and VMware have marketed their multicloud offerings aggressively. As such, Juniper will have to raise and sustain the marketing profile of Contrail Enterprise Multicloud.
Brad Casemoreanalyst, IDC

However, Juniper will need more than good technology when competing for customers. A lot more enterprises use Cisco and VMware products in data centers than Juniper gear. Also, Cisco has partnered with Google to build strong technological ties with the Google Cloud Platform, and VMware has a similar deal with Amazon.

"Cisco and VMware have marketed their multicloud offerings aggressively," Casemore said. "As such, Juniper will have to raise and sustain the marketing profile of Contrail Enterprise Multicloud."

Networking with Juniper Contrail Enterprise Multicloud

Contrail Enterprise Multicloud comprises networking, security and network management. Companies can buy the three pieces separately, but the new product lets engineers manage the trio through the software console that sits on top of the centralized Contrail controller.

For networking in a private cloud, the console relies on a virtual network overlay built on top of abstracted hardware switches, which can be from Juniper or a third party. The system also includes a virtual router that provides links to the physical underlay and Layer 4-7 network services, such as load balancers and firewalls. Through the console, engineers can create and distribute policies that tailor the network services and underlying switches to the needs of applications.

Contrail Enterprise Multicloud capabilities within public clouds, including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure, are different because the provider controls the infrastructure. Network operators use the console to program and control overlay services for workloads through the APIs made available by cloud providers. The Juniper software also uses native cloud APIs to collect analytics information. 

Other Juniper Contrail Enterprise Multicloud capabilities

Network managers can use the console to configure and control the gateway leading to the public cloud and to define and distribute policies for cloud-based virtual firewalls.

Also accessible through the console is Juniper's AppFormix management software for cloud environments. AppFormix provides policy monitoring and application and software-based infrastructure analytics. Engineers can configure the product to handle routine networking tasks.

The cloud-related work of Juniper, Cisco and VMware is a recognition that the boundaries of the enterprise data center are being redrawn. "Data center networking vendors are having to redefine their value propositions in a multicloud world," Casemore said.

Indeed, an increasing number of companies are reducing the amount of hardware and software running in private data centers by moving workloads to public clouds. Revenue from cloud services rose almost 29% year over year in the first half of 2017 to more than $63 billion, according to IDC.

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