Juniper strikes IBM partnership to spread SDN controller

Another major networking vendor has brought a software defined network controller to market, a crucial part of creating SDNs.

Juniper Networks said Monday its Contrail controller — previously called JunosV Contrail — is now available for purchase from the company’s partners.

And to make sure that the controller isn’t lost in the crowd, the company also said it has struck a partnerships with a number of cloud orchestration platforms including IBM Corp.’s for its SmartCloud Orchestrator.

In addition, Juniper is releasing an open source version called OpenContrail for organizations to create software defined networks. The company hopes customers will buy the Juniper version, however, because it includes support.

“This is the beginning of a fantastic partnership,” Aruna Ravichandran, Juniper’s senior vice-president of SDN marketing said in an interview of the IBM pact.

“Customers want the ability to automatically provision storage, server as well as network and tie that into a single cloud orchestration portal. IBM is going to bring their own compute and storage (solution), they’re going to work with Juniper from a networking perspective.”

“This is a big push for us, in order to have a strong go-to market partner we can work with in terms of penetrating the enterprise market.”

Integration testing between Contrail and SmartCloud Orchestrator is going on now, she said. When it is finished customers will be able to buy a complete stack for building private clouds.

There are also partnerships with other cloud orchestration providers using the OpenStack or CloudStack protocols including Apache CloudStack, Cloudscaling, Mirantis and Red Hat.

Priced at US$1,700 per socket for a perpetual licence or $1,000 a year through its integrator partners, Juniper also has some 20 other technology partners for Contrail. It can, for example, provision Riverbed Technology’s application delivery controller, CheckPoint Software’s firewall.

Competitors that have also released SDN controllers are Cisco Systems Inc., VMware and Big Switch Networks.

SDNs are networks controlled by centralized server-based software rather than hardware switches or routers, which have to be configured individually if traffic needs change. The idea is the SDN controller — many of which use the OpenFlow protocol — links to physical or virtual network devices. Orchestration — using the open source OpenStack or CloudStack cloud platforms– would be used to automatically programs switches. As a result, supporters believe SDN will be able to control network flows more efficiently than by manually configuring devices.

Juniper Contrail is an overlay solution for existing physical networks that Ravichandran said can sit on top of any physical infrastructure. It includes an SDN controller, vRouter and analytics engine.

According to Zeus Kerravala, an industry analyst and head of ZK Research, interest in SDNs until now has mainly come from service providers and the Juniper announcement won’t change that. So far the enterprise case for SDN’s hasn’t been made out yet, he said in an interview.

What most interested him in the announcement is OpenContrail. The IBM partnership is interesting, he said, but isn’t exclusive. IBM will have lots of controller partners, he said.

With Red Hat as a partner Juniper [NYSE: JNPR] can expose OpenContrail to organizations that are interested in open source solutions, he pointed out. That could help Juniper attract notice from companies that aren’t totally loyal to arch-rival Cisco Systems Inc., he said.

On the other hand, Kerravala isn’t sure how many of those companies will chose to buy the fully-supported Contrail.

For her part, Ravichandran is certain that SDN will eventually be adopted by enterprises, just as to took time for them to adopt server virtualization.  Storage virtualization is also taking time, she added.

The bottleneck to creating dynamic private clouds is the network, she argued. To provision a virtual network today is complex. An SDN controller allows the dynamic creation of virtual network tools, she said, which then can be managed with an orchestration solution.

In a May report, the Enterprise Strategy Group noted that service and cloud providers are early adopters of SDNs because they run complex networks.

As enterprise data centers evolve and are consolidated and built out as multitenant environments, they will begin to look like service provider networks, the report said. So the larger the enterprise environment, the more likely SDN will be a good fit. ESG research survey showed that enterprise organizations are twice as likely to invest in SDN technology over the next 12 -18 months as their midmarket counterparts. Over time, the report added, it could be reasonably expected that SDN environments will be pervasive in organizations of all sizes.

SDNs, it added, could be valuable in campus or branch networks because the increasing number of tablets and smart phones will mean the need to rapidly scale and provide services over the WLAN is becoming more important.



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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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