Juniper's new chipset and software strategy essentially asks CIOs to invest in a long-term vision of private cloud computing and enterprise grid networks that could mean a simpler, less costly network over time. But it requires a major short-term investment in carrier grade equipment.
"From an enterprise perspective, they're trying to help companies create a network that is cloud ready," said Robert Whiteley, a Forrester research director.
Juniper's 'New Network' details
Along with a massive and costly corporate re-branding campaign that included a gala on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) floor last week, Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson, founder Pradeep Sindhu and a cadre of other executives unveiled a new chipset, an open API software strategy and new hardware components. With this combination, Juniper hopes to build supercharged cloud computing networks for enterprises with the ability to push unlimited applications out to users in a decentralized network architecture.
Central to the release is a chipset with four processors -- oddly dubbed Trio -- that is said to ensure 2.6 terabits per second (Tbsp) of transport, easily outpacing every other competitor in the carrier market. The chips will ship in Juniper's existing MX series routers, as well as two new carrier routers, the MX 960 and the MX 80. Juniper has no near-term plans to drop the processors into the Ex-series enteprise-class switches that it released in 2008 and hailed as a strategy for securing a solid standing in the business market.
Hailing the chipset as the "most significant advance in the history of silicon since 1988" (the year Juniper engineers were developing their first round of technology), Sindhu said the four chips play different roles: One he called "the lookup engine," another "the memory engine," a third "the queuing engine," and finally the "interface engine."
Built on a "network instruction set processor" (NISP) architecture, the chipset can be customized for network behavior control rather than general-purpose instructions, according to Tom Nolle, president of the CIMI Corporation.
"[The chips are] programmable at the primitive NISP-instruction level, so new features can be added right down to the instruction level," Nolle said.
As part of the new plan, Juniper revamped and opened up its Junos operating system to licensing by other vendors. Blade Network Technologies announced last week that it would develop blade switches using Junos.
Juniper also announced an application platform, Junos Space, which has open APIs and SDKs so that third-party developers can spin applications; and Junos Pulse, a network client that will provide security and identity management, VPN control, and connection control. Juniper has actually been somewhat slow in bringing this application development to users. Both Cisco and ProCurve offer the option to develop applications to be placed in network components.
"They actually announced this two years ago [under the Partner Solution Development Program]," said David O'Berry, director of information technology systems and services at The South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services.
"Then they went into a black hole, and we never heard anything about it again," O'Berry said. "Now there are significant changes to how they are doing this. They didn't have the chip then. The ASIC-based routers can be tailored to do specific things. If partners start to develop a widget and it's one I can use, I can co-opt their widget. I would see that as a huge benefit."
The internal cloud computing vision
Together, Juniper's new technologies enable carriers and large enterprises to program applications directly into the layers of the network, pushing them out in a distributed way.
"They're building an ecosystem that goes from a processor on a router all the way through to a smartphone," Nolle said. "They've taken a piece of functionality and made it fit in an agent that runs on any appliance."
"Distributed computing is getting a bunch of chromosomes to work cooperatively," he said. "This is a platform that provides all of the tools to allow service features to be built as chromosomes and then run wherever it is convenient."
Whiteley describes Juniper's strategy as "collapsing the layers of the data center network," enabling server interconnects to be fed directly into the core of the network. Networks will eventually be a "giant matrix" of "any-to-any" connectivity with storage flowing directly in, he said.
Addressing enterprise concern about a lack of security in placing crucial applications in "the cloud," Juniper announced an upgrade of the SRX Series Service Gateway to scale to 10 million concurrent user sessions and include faster firewall and intrusion detection systems. The architecture also provides virtual server security.
The entire vision banks on the idea that smaller enterprises will buy cloud services from carriers and larger enterprises will build their own internal clouds, or at least some hybrid version of public and private clouds.
To many, it is still not a foregone conclusion that all enterprises will go the cloud route, but Nolle said research shows that 85% of enterprises have bought into the architecture on some level.
What about the EX-series in this new internal cloud computing vision?
For now, Juniper's "New Network" vision is dependent on enterprises building internal cloud computing architecture based on carrier-class MX series switches, which are way more costly than enterprise-level EX series switches.
"I have two M series. They are overkill, and they are way too costly," O'Berry said. "I would hope they are going to bring out an enterprise M or bring that Junos capability into enterprise-class routers and switches."
Whiteley said Juniper's vision is one that will take seven to 10 years to play out and that the company will have to sell into enterprises that are looking at core refresh. If enterprises are making data center decisions that will be good five years down the line, he said, the MX series is not an impossible choice.
Juniper will argue that its equipment makes the network less complex by collapsing the tiers and using an architecture that requires less power while providing way more speed and capability, Whiteley said.
He added that Juniper's argument will be: "You can use the operational savings you get from our product to fund the capex you are going to need to become more cloudlike down the road."