Juniper Offers Disaggregated Junos Network OS

The move enables customers to run Junos on third-party hardware and other vendors' applications directly on Juniper switches.

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Juniper Networks is expanding its open networking efforts with a disaggregated version of its Junos networking software and new access switches that can run not only the disaggregated Junos but also supports the 25 Gigabit Ethernet and 50 GbE standards.

The vendor announced the new offerings Nov. 3 on the first day of its inaugural NXTWORK 2015 user conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

Juniper is among a number of established vendors that are building out their portfolios of open networking offerings that enable customers to run third-party software on their branded systems. Juniper and other vendors, including Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), are looking for ways to offer customers the flexibility and protection against vendor lock-in that they're demanding while pushing back at the growing strength of white-box switches made by original design manufacturers (ODMs).

"We've long been committed to openness wherever possible," Mike Marcellin, senior vice president of marketing and strategy at Juniper, told eWEEK. "We've been on a steady march to provide the most open and programmable [infrastructure]."

Such data center trends as the rapidly growing amount of network traffic, cloud computing, mobility, containers and virtualized workloads have increased enterprise demand for network infrastructures that are more programmable, flexible, agile and affordable than traditional environments. New network virtualization models like software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) are designed to remove the control plane and networking tasks—including firewalls, routing and load balancing—from the underlying hardware and put them into software that can run on less expensive commodity gear.

SDN vendors are offering networking software that can run on bare-metal systems from ODMs, and such white boxes are gaining traction in the global switch market. Established vendors, through their branded open networking products, are giving customers another option: branded systems that can run third-party software but come with the support and services of top-tier OEMs. Gartner analysts call them "brite boxes."

It's a development that is addressing growing demands for greater choice and no vendor lock-in from hyperscale cloud companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft—which buy a lot of switches—and a small percentage of enterprises, Marcellin said.

"This is an industry trend that is starting, and we intend to lead," he said.

Dell offers open switches that run a growing array of software from the likes of Cumulus Networks, Big Switch Networks, Midokura and Pluribus Networks. HPE, through its Altoline of switches that are developed jointly with Accton Technologies, can run Pica8's PicOS as well as other network operating systems, including a tailored version of its own Comware 7.

Juniper in December 2014 introduced the OCX1100 switch, based on designs from the Open Compute Project (OCP), which runs Junos.

Now Juniper is extending its open networking capabilities. With the disaggregated Junos, customers can now run third-party applications directly on Juniper switches that have the new OS, while at the same time run Junos on other vendors' switches that are compliant with the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE).

In addition, a new pricing model for the QFX5200 switches will enable customers to buy Junos and the hardware platform together or separately.

"Junos should be able to run on anyone's hardware, ours or others,'" Marcellin said. "We want to give [customers] that ultimate degree of choice."

That choice extends to the network speed of their switches. The QFX5200 offers speeds of between 10GbE and 100GbE, including the emerging 25GbE and 50GbE standards that are being driven by cloud server providers like Google and Microsoft as well as other vendors, including Broadcom, Mellanox Technologies and Arista Networks. This is the first switch from Juniper to be powered by Broadcom's Tomahawk ASICs, which run 25GbE and 50GbE as well as 10GbE, 40GbE and 100GbE.

Juniper also supports such standards as MLPS, BGP, EVPN-VXLAN and an array of Layer 2/3 features, Marcellin said.

In addition, through Juniper's Junos Space Network Director software, businesses using the new switch get a single place through which to control their entire network. The switch also supports VMware's vRealize Operations management pack and vSphere vCenter, which gives them even more visibility into the health and performance of their networks.