Juniper Networks is unveiling a new switch that offers an open design and the vendor’s networking operating system that is aimed at large cloud environments where organizations want to move away from complex hardware and more easily embrace such trends as software-defined networking.
Juniper built the cloud-optimized OCX1100 switch in line with designs from the Open Compute Project (OCP), the 3-year-old Facebook-led effort to develop open standards for highly efficient data centers and IT hardware. Company officials said the switch will help organizations that don’t have the resources or expertise to design their own networking gear or to use hardware from white-box makers, but that also don’t want to continue dealing with the high costs and lack of flexibility that come with traditional architectures from the likes of Cisco Systems, Extreme Networks and Juniper.
By combining an open-source hardware design with its own Junos OS operating system, Juniper is offering customers greater innovation and agility with the backing of an established vendor that comes with a solid software platform and support services, according to company officials.
“Our customers have told us that they no longer want to be locked into platforms or architectures for another 20+ years,” Jonathan Davidson, senior vice president and general manager of Juniper’s Security, Switching and Solutions Business Unit, said in an email to eWEEK. “They want and need openness and innovation. By leveraging OCP submitted hardware, we saw an opportunity to provide large cloud builders with a new approach to networking, one that fills a functional gap between white box and traditional switching.”
The OCP had initially targeted servers and storage devices for its work, but last year began looking at networking hardware to develop a vendor-agnostic switch. Juniper officials said the company is the first to offer an open switch based on OCP designs that also runs a carrier-class networking OS.
The networking space is undergoing rapid and fundamental change, due in large part to the movement toward software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV). Organizations are looking for more agile, automated and cost-effective networks that can be quickly programmed to meet the changing needs brought on by such trends as big data, mobile computing and the cloud.
SDN and NFV offer the promise of more flexible and programmable networks by taking networking intelligence out of the underlying hardware and putting it into software, where it can be run on less expensive commodity servers and switches. Top networking vendors like Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper are rapidly expanding their network virtualization capabilities, while a broad array of smaller companies are rolling out SDN and NFV products in hopes of gaining a foothold in the market.
Juniper Switch Combines Open Design, Junos Network OS
Major cloud providers—such as Facebook, Google and Amazon—are looking for greater cost and energy efficiencies in their data center infrastructures, and often have the resources to develop the equipment themselves or rely on white-box makers and maintain the hardware on their own.
Not everyone has those resources, fueling the idea behind Juniper’s OCX1100 switch, which has been submitted to the OCP for review, according to company officials. Juniper is working with original design manufacturer (ODM) Alpha Networks on the hardware design, which officials said should get OCP approval before the switch goes on sale in the first quarter of 2015.
The switch runs an optimized version of Junos OS, which is based on Linux and offers all the features needed for Level 3 networks. Included in the switch are programmatic interfaces for such languages as Python, enabling custom scripts and applications to work with Junos, and support for the tools already in Junos, including Puppet and Chef, for automated programming and provisioning. There also is real-time ephemeral table programming to Junos software development kits (SDKs) and support for Open Network Install Environment (ONIE), which enables users to remove Junos and install another vendor’s network OS if they want.
That enables organizations to avoid vendor lock-in, Juniper’s Davidson said. However, he doesn’t expect all customers will take out Junos.
“There is also a segment of customers who value the principles of openness and innovation but lack the desire or resources to take on the burden of integration and support required for a disaggregated solution,” Davidson wrote. “We are targeting these customers; and this is fully aligned with OCP in both theory and in principle.”
He added that the new switch “enables us to address a new market segment. With the OCX, we can better serve customers who are tired of being trapped by the market leader and unable to move to a disaggregated offering due to lack of features and unstable operating systems currently available on OCP platforms.”