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Juniper has introduced a cloud-based version of its Contrail SD-WAN management framework, making it possible for customers to administer their WAN and wired and wireless branch network infrastructure from a single user interface.
The company launched Contrail Service Orchestration as a cloud service this week. Juniper also announced integration between the SD-WAN-as-a-service offering and the vendor's Mist wireless LAN (WLAN) and EX Series wired LAN switches.
The integration with Mist is not seamless, however. A network operator cannot manage a Mist WLAN directly from the Contrail Service Orchestration user interface (UI). Instead, an engineer would use the UI to launch a separate window from the Mist portal.
"The Mist management is read-only," said James Kelly, lead software-defined networking architect at Juniper, in an email. "To make changes, there is a context-sensitive cross-launch into the Mist portal."
Nevertheless, research by Enterprise Management Associates has found "significant interest" among enterprises for consolidating management of the SD-WAN, the LAN and Wi-Fi, EMA analyst Shamus McGillicuddy said.
"Very few companies have skilled networking personnel at branch sites," McGillicuddy said. "Anything [Juniper] can do to reduce management complexity for distributed enterprises will be welcome."
Juniper's progress in the SD-WAN market
Juniper entered the SD-WAN market in 2016, several years after the first startups began offering the technology as a tool for reducing WAN costs by replacing expensive MPLS links with cheaper broadband. The market snowballed as a result of the cost-benefit, forcing legacy vendors Juniper, Cisco and VMware to develop or acquire competitive products.
Juniper is catching up with other vendors in launching its SD-WAN-as-a-service offering.
"Juniper was a belated and somewhat understated player in SD-WAN, and this announcement means Juniper intends to compete more aggressively across the SD-WAN landscape," said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC.
The Mist integration reflects Juniper's intent to become a stronger competitor by focusing on building a Contrail-based platform for a software-defined branch (SD-branch), a concept in which all branch networking is covered in a single management platform, according to analysts. Contrail is the name of the software-based controller used to manage Juniper's network infrastructure.
"The Mist integration helps Juniper articulate a more comprehensive proposition for the SD-branch, which now encompasses Juniper EX switches, as well as the Mist WLAN," Casemore said. Juniper acquired Mist this year for $405 million after years of depending on partners for WLAN technology.
Vendors building an SD-branch offering are moving toward collapsing multiple virtual network functions, including routing, the wireless LAN and security, into one platform. The SD-branch goal addresses the difficulty centralized IT departments have in trying to manage the networks of scattered branch offices that can number in the thousands for large enterprises.
Juniper also introduced the option of using Zscaler's cloud-based security gateway with the latest version of Contrail Service Orchestration.
"The ZScaler integration is good," McGillicuddy said. "Most SD-WAN vendors are integrating with Zscaler and similar security-as-a-service vendors."