Juniper virtualizes MX router

Large enterprises have large networking needs. But that doesn’t mean they’re eager to make large investments in hardware.

For network administrators who need the power of Juniper Networks’ MX universal edge routers without a buying a chassis it will soon have a virtual version.

Early next year Juniper will bring out the vMX, which can run on x86 servers and includes many of the capabilities of the hardware versions.

“Whatever you know and love about the physical MX is the same in the virtual one,” Stephen Liu, the company’s senior director of service provider marketing said in an interview. And organizations can move from a virtual to a physical router easily if the capacity is needed.

“Any mid-range off the shelf (server) platform” will do, he added. “It doesn’t require anything fancy”

While the vMX is intended for service providers, Juniper also believes enterprises will be taken with its capabilities. “With new markets like enterprise that are looking for a different branch office, they can put something with a pedigree of 15 years of carrier-grade reliability in their environment.”

For example, Liu said an organization may need an MX router in a country where its service provider doesn’t have a presence. The vMX can be hosted in a co-location facility there.

Another advantage with a vMX is that services can be added faster, he said.

He noted that when a service provider has to upgrade a service – say, video monitoring — for one customer, the operating system upgrade affects all customers sharing services on a MX router. They may not use the new service, but each has to be notified of the OS change to ensure it doesn’t affect performance on their networks.

A vMX allows the provider to spin up an isolated environment for the customer with a new service so no one else is affected by the upgrade. That also means the new service can be introduced to the customer faster.

Virtualizing a router or switch isn’t new. But Liu said the vMX virtualizes both the control and the data plane for full forwarding of packets. One competitor has only virtualized the control plane of its product, he said, so it’s only a route reflector. By virtualize the forwarding plane the vMX can add policies to create a broadband network gateway, a provider edge for business, or virtualize customer premise equipment for managed services.

However, the vMX is limited by the interface cards made for standard servers, so it has a capacity of up to 160 Gbps. That would put it faster than five of the models in the MX line, but not up to the 1.92 TBps of the MX 240 and its faster siblings, the MX480 and the MX 960, which can take 100 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

Pricing hasn’t been announced, but Liu said the vMX will be licenced based on bandwidth, so customers can start small. Initially capacity might start at 100 Mbps and go up 1 Gbps increments, he said. Customers can buy either perpetual or subscription licences.

The vMX can be orchestrated by Juniper’s Contrail SDN controller and OpenStack, and managed by Juniper Space.

Juniper also announced Contrail Cloud, an OpenStack-based software platform for cloud resource orchestration. The idea is to simplify the process of brining Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) to carriers and service providers.

It’s a hardware reference architecture that specifies the routing, switching, compute and storage needed for a turnkey NFV solution that Juniper partners can assemble and sell based on the Contrail Networking controller.

Contrail Cloud is supported by Linux distributor Canonical, Amdocs, Akamai Technologies and others. Contrail Cloud will be available in December.

Finally, Juniper said it is enhancing all of its routing platforms with DevOps enhancements to its Junos operating system.

Previously when an organization needed to increase its interfaces (say, from 10 to 100 G) Junos had to be upgraded and tested, which could take months. Continuity allows users to upload drivers and functionality without affecting the base OS. It will be available in March, 2015.

In addition, popular scripting and programing languages have now been integrated in Junos, including Puppet, Chef, Ruby, Python and Ansible. “So now the networking infrastructure speaks the same language as the IT infrastructure,” Liu said, “to allow the IT guys to program the network in synch with their applications. We believe this is a huge thing for unleashing the creativity for new services to come.”

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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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