By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated September 16, 2013.
Not content to merely stand by and watch the software-defined network (SDN) train roar by, Juniper Networks is bringing Contrail, its own open-source SDN software stack, to the tracks.
Contrail is a production-ready, standards-based, scalable network virtualization and intelligence solution for SDNs. Contrail aims to help IT bridge physical and virtual networks and give service providers and enterprises an open, agile solution. The technology has been in trials with more than 40 global customers. Partners include IBM, Citrix, Riverbed and Red Hat.
"SDN has tremendous promise to drive agility, fuel innovation, and reduce costs for both enterprise and service providers," said Bob Muglia, executive vice president of Software Solutions Division at Juniper Networks. "Customers are excited by this potential, but until now, SDN has been a lot of hype and not much reality."
Juniper's SDN Pitch
Juniper is looking to change that with Contrail. Here's the networking company's pitch: Enterprises are looking for more efficient ways to build private, public and hybrid clouds to increase application deployment agility. However, traditional networking has not kept pace and can still be manual, static and complex.
Juniper argues that Contrail virtualizes the network, brings advanced networking capabilities into the hypervisor and integrates with cloud orchestration systems, to make possible automation and orchestration across multiple cloud platforms. The solution also offers an analytics engine that offers a real-time view into network operations.
At the same time, network and cloud service providers are under tremendous pressure to develop, deploy and monetize new services, but most services are difficult to reconfigure or adapt to changing user demands. Contrail also helps them bring new services to market by providing a smooth transition with automatic provisioning and dynamic service chaining in cloud environments that run on x86-based servers.
Contrail Versus NSX
We asked Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, for his take on the news. He told us it's interesting, considering Juniper announced a NSX partnership at VMworld -- and Contrail is now competing directly with VMware's NSX.
"In some ways, this may be foreshadowing of what's to come. Most networking vendors, Juniper included, don't believe that a pure software overlay model like VMware is espousing really scales that well," Kerravala said. "So you are going to see other competitive products like this. The thought is that a purely hypervisor-based virtual network is a bit of a ships in the night scenario with the underlying physical network."
While similarly envisioned as NSX, he said Contrail takes a much different approach. It's open stack instead of proprietary. Juniper is thinking more broadly, he continued, adding a vRouter that allows IT to use Contrail to connect data centers or even branch offices if companies want to extend the SDN that far out. Being open source, the partnership with Red Hat gives Juniper a means to gain a footprint in the enterprise where Cisco doesn't dominate.
"In some ways it's a bit of a change for Juniper attitude-wise. If you look historically at some of their products, like QFabric and MobileNext, Juniper very much likes using proprietary standards to build its products," Kerravala said. "I don't know of another product from Juniper that's this open. Perhaps Juniper sees some writing on the wall that implies SDN is going to have to be based on the partnerships they can build and maintain and that's why they went down this route."
The commercial version of Contrail is now available through Juniper Software Advantage and is offered as both a perpetual and subscription software license. Perpetual license is priced at $1,700 per socket and a one year subscription license is $1,000 per socket.