Juniper Expands SDN Portfolio for Network Operators

The vendor introduces new hardware, software and services at Mobile World Congress to help carriers improve their network environments.

Juniper Networks, which has been building out its software-defined networking strategy around its Contrail controller, is expanding its portfolio with complementary hardware, software and services designed to help service providers create more scalable, flexible and automated networking environments.

Juniper officials unveiled the offerings at Mobile Word Congress (MWC) 2014 on Feb. 24, saying telecommunications companies and service providers will be able to leverage more open and secure networks to quickly spin out services that customers are demanding.

It comes at a time when these organizations are under increasing pressure to continue turning a profit while having to deal with the rapid growth in such trends as streaming video, mobility, cloud computing and over-the-top (OTT) companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo, which don't have the older and more complex legacy networking infrastructures to deal with when developing new services for end users.

"Service providers are in a lot of flux right now," Mike Marcellin, senior vice president for strategy and marketing for Juniper, told eWEEK.

The good news for these providers is that the network continues to become the foundation for an increasingly connected world, Marcellin said. What's become increasingly difficult is being able to respond to customer demands and create ways to monetize those networks.

"They really want to provide a customized experience for their regular customers," he said, noting that a recent Bain & Co. study found that consumers will pay an average of 28 percent more for more customized products than "off-the-shelf" offerings from the same service provider.

However, networks that comprise complex and expensive hardware systems pose challenges, Marcellin said.

"They're left with a very complex environment that's difficult to manage [and] costly to manage," he said. "It's really hard to manage something that's just a conglomerate of products."

Software-defined networking (SDN) and its cousin, network-function virtualization (NFV), are designed to help organizations create networks that are more programmable, flexible, scalable and cost-effective. SDN essentially decouples the control plane from the underlying physical hardware, putting the network intelligence into a software controller. NFV virtualizes the networking services—such as firewalls and load balancers—that run atop the infrastructure.

Every major networking vendor and a range of smaller companies are building out their SDN portfolios, and at the MWC show, service providers are getting extra attention, with players like Hewlett-Packard, Alcatel-Lucent and Broadcom running out NFV offerings that are aimed at helping telecoms. Juniper's announcement also comes a week after rival Cisco Systems unveiled its Evolved Services Platform (ESP), designed to help service provides expand the use of virtualization in their networks. The ESP is part of Cisco's larger Open Network Environment (ONE) strategy.

Juniper's efforts also come days after the networking company—which has been under pressure from certain corporate shareholders—introduced a new business plan that includes focusing on helping organizations create highly automated and secure "high-IQ networks" as well as private and public clouds. The company's news out of MWC fits in well with that effort, Marcellin said.