Juniper Says IT Industry Must Adjust to a More Open Networking Future

Networking technology vendors and their customers have to get used to working with open systems and software that will drive the next wave of industry growth, according to Juniper Networks execs speaking at the company’s first customer summit.

Juniper Conference

SANTA CLARA, CALIF.—Signaling changes to come in the networking industry, Juniper Networks detailed where it sees the next areas of growth and how the company is positioned to take advantage of it.

CEO Rami Rahim said customers want “choice and flexibility” when it comes to hardware and software, and the networking giant plans to offer that with its announcement that it has disaggregated its Junos networking software so it can run on so-called white boxes built by other vendors.

Rahim said customers want the option of using other hardware for many reasons. “It’s around choice and flexibility and being able to choose the best of breed in hardware and software, cost optimization and consistency. There is a transformation and Juniper intends to lead,” he said at the NxtWork 2015 Customer Summit here.

The availability of a disaggregated Junos means customers can run third-party applications directly on Juniper switches that have the new OS, while simultaneously running Junos on other vendors' switches that are compliant with the Open Network Install Environment.

While some customers may choose to run Junos on another vendor’s hardware, Rahim said the company will continue to invest in new chip designs, noting “there is tremendous room for innovation in silicon technology.”

He pointed to Juniper’s Q5 processor that powers data center switches as an example of custom silicon with unique advantages. “Nobody else has built anything like it, so we chose custom silicon. But couple that with our white box strategy so anyone can take advantage of it.”

Rahim also spoke about how software is changing, particularly with the company’s strategy of decoupling Junos from Juniper’s hardware. He said that 85 percent of the engineering work at Juniper Development and Innovation (JDI) today is in software, but it makes most of its money charging for networking ports. “That has to change,” as a key step in decoupling Junos from the hardware.

With enterprises continuing to wrestle with security to respond to threats both proactively and reactively, Rahim said it’s important for security to be tied intimately to the network to be effective. “It’s about secure networks, not network security. When you have a secure network you can’t slow it down.”

He said Juniper thinks it can offer security that is “orders of magnitude” better than what’s available today, by taking a more holistic approach.

“When you are collecting data to see if there’s a threat in your network, it’s not just about the endpoints, but your entire network that needs to be analyzed,” he said. When a threat has been identified, he said trying to mitigate the point of attack such as the perimeter or firewall isn’t enough. Rather, the entire infrastructure and policies need to be checked.

Jonathan Davidson, executive vice president and general manager for JDI, said it’s something of a misnomer to call Junos an operating system. “It’s a set of network and security services,” said Davidson, noting that his team identified almost 100distinct services in the software.

“There is a need to enable our customers to utilize these services in any way they desire,” he added.

In his concluding remarks, Rahim encouraged customers to experiment and test new approaches.

The networking industry is accustomed to working with certain familiar skills and procedures "and it can be difficult to change, but we have to,” said Rahim.

“Things are moving too rapidly to come up with a master plan,” he added, suggesting it would be better if companies had fewer committees and spent less time analyzing technology purchase decisions. “Rolling up your sleeves, thinking big, but starting small has earned many of us the trophy,” he said.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...