Juniper Networks is shipping its software-defined networking controller, less than a year after the company acquired startup Contrail Systems in an effort to boost its SDN capabilities.
Juniper executives, with help from partners and customers who had beta-tested the technology, announced the availability of the Contrail controller Sept. 16 during a Webcast event. At the same time, the company also unveiled OpenContrail, an open-source version of the controller.
Bob Muglia, executive vice president of Juniper's Software Solutions Division, said during the launch event that the general availability of Contrail and the move to make it available as an open-source code will help remove "the confusion that exists in the industry [around SDN] … and make it real."
"This is important, not just for Juniper, but we think this is important for the industry as a whole," Muglia said, that "until now, SDN has been mostly hype."
SDN and its cousin, network functions virtualization (NFV), are generating increasing interest among vendors and businesses alike, promising greater network programmability, scalability and automation by decoupling the network intelligence from the underlying hardware and putting it into software. IDC analysts are forecasting that the SDN market could hit $3.7 billion by 2016; others are saying it could grow larger.
However, except among some Web 2.0 companies like Google and Amazon, actual SDN deployments are relatively rare, though analysts say that will change later this year and into 2014.
Muglia and other Juniper executives said the release of Contrail will help fuel that growth. The Juniper technology—both the commercial version of Contrail and the OpenContrail offering—are based on Linux and work as a virtual overlay over existing networks. Contrail not only virtualizes the network, but also brings networking capabilities to hypervisors and integrates with cloud orchestration engines, including VMware, Microsoft, OpenStack and OpenCloud. It also includes an analytics engine that gives users a real-time view of what's going on in the network.
The primary targets are enterprise data centers and service providers, both of which are looking for greater automation, flexibility, programmability and cost-effectiveness in their infrastructures and networks as more services are moved into the cloud.
"The cloud is automated," and requires that all components, including the network, can respond dynamically to rapidly changing demands, Muglia said.
It also needs to be open, he said. Contrail will work not only with Juniper products, but also with those from other vendors, including Cisco Systems.
"We know our customers live in a heterogeneous world," Muglia said. "But we will make [Contrail] work better with Juniper."
OpenContrail offers the same capabilities as the commercial version, but it won't come with services and support from the company. It can be found at www.opencontrail.org, and will be available via an Apache 2.0 license.
OpenContrail is one of a number of open-source SDN efforts—such as the Open Networking Forum and Open Compute Project—under way. There also is the vendor-driven OpenDaylight Project, which kicked off earlier this year with a number of vendors—including Juniper—as key founding members. OpenDaylight earlier this month unveiled details of the first iteration of its open SDN architecture, called "Hydrogen."
Muglia, when asked about OpenContrail and OpenDaylight, said the intent is for Juniper to contribute the OpenContrail code to OpenDaylight "as appropriate."
Contrail has been beta-tested by more than 40 customers, and is being developed alongside a range of other partners, from SDN technology vendors like Riverbed Technology and Sonus Networks, to cloud orchestration vendors like Citrix Systems, Canonical and IBM.
Several partners and customers spoke during the event. Angel Diaz, vice president of software standards and cloud at IBM, said his company was working with Juniper on Contrail and IBM's SmartCloud technology. He demonstrated the speed of using a self-service online shopping site that leverages Contrail and SmartCloud.
Phil Rosenthal, chief technology officer for hosting company ISPrime, said a key benefit to Contrail is that it is based on Layer 3 in the networks, which lacks the scalability problems of L2. In addition, it will make the MX960 routers and other Juniper networking products in the ISPrime infrastructure more flexible and programmable, which will help the company meet customer demands.