For many companies and organizations, networking is no longer only relevant for achieving connectivity within their own IT environments or data centers. Nowadays, it is mainly the connectivity to large public cloud environments that demands all their attention. It is this integration with the cloud that Juniper Networks is now focusing on, which we heard at the end of last year at the EMEA NXTWORK event. A five-step plan can help with this.
We travelled to London to hear exactly what the American network specialist’s view of networking is today and how the company wants to manifest itself in the coming years.
To get straight to the point: at Juniper Networks, too, the cloud is almost central today, from on-premise to hybrid environments to cloud environments. From a supplier of mainly physical network equipment such as routers, such as the infamous first ‘real’ M40 internet router, switches and firewalls, Juniper Networks has now grown into a network supplier of stature with a broad portfolio of hardware solutions. However, it is also increasingly about software, especially for the cloud. In this way, the company wants to deliver everything in the field of networking, from the edge to the (multi)cloud and of course later also for 5G.
Juniper Networks is, of course, not very different from all those other suppliers who also want to connect everything from the edge to the (multi)cloud. All companies in the networking business think about the future of this development today, and they and want to provide their customers with the best solutions. In a recent Gartner Magic Quadrant for the data center networking segment, Juniper Networks appears in the top right corner together with Arista Networks and ‘arch-nemesis’ Cisco.
During the event, an employee in a knowledge session still showed great respect for the latter supplier. According to this employee, Juniper Networks should present itself as the ‘best alternative’ to Cisco, instead of simply focusing on the quality of its own applications. Quite a remarkable statement at an event where Cisco is more or less ‘the company that shall not be named’.
Cloud important for growth
However, this ‘tribal struggle’ does not detract from the fact that the American network supplier has seen its customer base grow in recent years. Whereas service providers and data centers were the main customers at first, the company can also count an increasing number of large business companies among its customers. It is this latter category that received the most attention during the event in London.
The most important reason for this is that these companies are moving towards the cloud, and in particular to the cloud environments. As CEO Rami Rahim points out, this step brings a lot of complexity to companies in the field of networking. Therefore, this automatically poses the greatest challenge for those companies.
Wherever there are networks, the cloud in all its forms is now present. According to the network vendor, companies no longer just put or run their applications and workloads in their on-premise data centers, but increasingly also in hybrid environments and in (multi)cloud environments. Not only with hyperscalers like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, but also with other environments like IBM Cloud or Salesforce. Rahim calls this the ‘scale out-era’.
Scale-out brings complexity to networks
The question is, however, whether companies can currently handle this with their existing networks, according to the CEO. And isn’t this ‘scale-out’ or step to (multi)cloud environments too complex for them? According to Rahim, the increasing complexity with which customers are confronted within their networks is a fact of life. He illustrates this complexity with an example of a switch that has a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF), average downtime of 400 years. This is nice because it means it is very robust. In the case of 40,000 switches, it’s a different story. Then it is possible that the network, due to a failure of a switch, is there every day once out. In short, the scale-out makes the management of the network much more complex.
Juniper Networks now wants to reduce this complexity for companies, in order to be able to better switch to these various cloud environments; achieving more ‘simplicity’, as it’s nicely called.
Software-defined networking as the holy grail
To simplify, manage and make cloud environments more secure, Rahim believes that the industry should not necessarily focus on building better networks, but on making them self-improving (or self-driving). Software-defined networking is the holy grail, in that case.
This technology ensures that networks are abstracted, made programmable and above all, automated. The core elements of software-defined networking that make this possible are visibility, insight and, last-but-not-least, automation.
With visibility, companies need to be able to look across the entire network infrastructure to see exactly what is happening on and within networks, from edge to all public cloud environments. With the help of analytics, insight helps companies to ‘translate’ the information that emerges from the networks into targeted interventions or solutions. Finally, automation ensures that all this can take place without too much human interference.
Self-Driving Network is the ultimate goal
All this should lead to a Self-Driving Network. A ‘Self Driving Network’ is a network that consists of a combination of telemetry, workflow automation, DevOps and artificial intelligence in the form of machine learning. This technology ensures that the network infrastructure is responsive, adapts automatically and ultimately acts as a predictor. It enables companies to ensure that their networks are fully capable of meeting the demands of cloud environments for the ‘movement and movement’ of applications and workloads. For companies, this naturally leads to greater flexibility, cost savings and the ability to accelerate their operations more easily. Ultimately, this will allow them to focus more on their real activities.
Juniper Networks does indicate that this Self Driving Network is still a vision for the future. According to Rahim, most companies are still in the phase that they use event-driven automation. This means, among other things, that they apply automation to the entire IT infrastructure, use telemetry for gathering information and finally automate certain processes on the basis of established rules.
Five-step model for the cloud
In order to allow companies and organizations with software-defined networking to switch to cloud environments as easily and securely as possible, the network company has developed a five-step model. According to Juniper Networks, this model prevents companies from ‘just doing what’ to eliminate the complexity of a switch. As a result, businesses and organizations run the risk of breaking down their network environments into pieces that they can understand and setting hard boundaries for them. According to the network specialist, the latter no longer works in cloud environments, because applications and workloads move more or less ‘invisibly’ across the various cloud environments with as little latency as possible.
Within the five-step model, the first step is to work ‘device-driven’. Companies or organizations determine what capacities are needed for their network infrastructure. Based on this, equipment is purchased. The second step is to achieve more coherence between all devices within the network infrastructure.
Step three already looks at the activities that are carried out on the network. The data model, telemetry for information about the behavior of the data and data distribution, are central to this. The fourth step is to combine the desired operational management with the desired automation.
Finally, the fifth and final step is the expectations of the final customers. Data protection and the timely and correct use of applications play a role in this. Juniper Networks sees this as a revolutionary process that ultimately leads to a simple and secure transition to the cloud.
Contrail Enterprise Cloud
In order to guide this entire step-by-step process, the vendor has an array of solutions at its disposal. Specifically the Contrail Enterprise Cloud application is relevant. This solution provides a platform for companies and organizations to consistently execute, monitor and monitor every network functionality for cloud environments, workloads and implementations.
The solution works with all major public cloud environments and orchestrates policies for networking and security. It can also be used to create an intent-based network model. This allows companies to capture all their business needs in one model and activate and guarantee this across the network. In this way, they can benefit from improving their business processes, further increasing network security, implementing proactive management and offering more innovation.
At EMEA NXTWORK 2018, Juniper Networks’ own software solution was again seen as an ‘open alternative’ to Cisco’s and VMware’s solutions, Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and VMware NSX in particular.
Collaboration with Nutanix and Red Hat
During the event, Juniper Networks announced that it is working with Hyper-Converged Infrastructure and Storage specialist Nutanix, as well as Red Hat on its cloud solutions. With the first party, which we also discussed at length recently, we are talking about integration between Contrail Enterprise Multicloud and Nutanix APIs. Among other things, this integration should provide improved network visibility for virtualized workloads, making it possible to automate the management of the entire fabric.
In addition, Juniper Networks will combine its Unified Cybersecurity Platform with Nutanix’ SDN offering, Flow and AHV Hypervisor in particular. This combination must secure applications by applying micro-segmentation within the enterprise cloud environments.
The partnership with Red Hat for Enterprise Cloud focuses specifically on managing and running applications and services within each virtual machine (VM), container and cloud environment. This includes integration with Red Hat OpenShift Container and the OpenStack platform.
Around Q2 2019, the Control Enterprise solution will be further expanded to include specific cloud-based SDN applications for campus and sub-office environments. Juniper Networks will also launch more software-based applications, such as 5G, this year. It is working on this with mobile network specialist Ericsson.
Juniper Networks is, in conclusion, firmly committed to the simplification of the transition of companies and organizations to the various cloud environments and removing the complexity this entails for networks. As mentioned earlier, they are not so different from other providers in this respect. We are therefore curious to see what truly distinguishing features the network specialist will bring this year. Especially in the light of collaborations with Nutanix, but also in the field of 5G, for example, make this question incredibly interesting.