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Juniper Cloud CPE to speed up LAN deployments

Juniper Networks has launched Juniper Cloud CPE, a software-based router designed to help service providers reduce the time to deliver LAN services to the enterprise.

Juniper Networks Inc. has introduced a Linux-based platform that communication service providers can use to package a software-based router with a variety of virtual network functions to deploy customers’ LANs more rapidly.

Additionally, Juniper unveiled plans to make its Junos operating system available on white box switches and routers. Other news at this week's Juniper's NXTWORK user conference in Santa Clara, Calif., included the introduction of the QFX5200 Series of access switches that support 25 and 50 GbE.

The new products reflect Juniper's intent to stay on top of the demands of communication service providers (CSPs), which are its largest market segment, while continuing a strategy of developing technology that will also appeal to large enterprises.

The new CSP product is called Juniper Cloud CPE, which stands for customer premises equipment. The platform runs on an Intel x86 chip on a commodity server within a service provider’s data center. 

Cloud CPE in dedicated hardware

In the first half of 2016, Juniper Cloud CPE will be available in a one rack unit box, called the NFX250. Carriers can sell the on-premises hardware to customers who prefer to have the technology in their data centers.

The initial use case for Cloud CPE is to help service providers deploy a LAN faster in large customers’ branch offices, retail stores, hotels or any other location. To do that, carriers would install  on the platform a software-based router and up to five other virtual network functions (VNFs), such as firewalls, VPNs or LAN acceleration. Juniper envisions service providers using Cloud CPE  for more than just routing in the future.

Adding network functions to hardware-based systems requires installing dedicated devices, a process that can take months, said Nav Chander, an analyst at IDC, based in Framingham, Mass. With Cloud CPE, carriers can add services to the hosted software or upload changes to customers' on-premises NFX250 boxes.

"That gives the service provider flexibility," Chander said. "A lot of this is automation, simplified technology and saving the service providers money."

AT&T is using Juniper's Cloud CPE in a rebranded service the carrier calls Universal CPE. AT&T demonstrated the technology for analysts at the end of September, Chander said. "That's a very significant win [for Juniper]."

In December, Juniper plans to release Contrail Service Orchestration for managing Cloud CPE deployments and other virtualized network services. Contrail is Juniper's software-defined networking (SDN) overlay for network virtualization that includes an SDN controller.

Contrail is likely to be one of multiple controllers CSPs will use in managing groups of VNFs, Chander said. "Service providers that I talk to are building architectures with multiple SDN controllers. They don't want to be dependent on one vendor."

Junos heads to white box switches

Juniper plans to sell Junos separately and give customers the option of having the OS installed on third-party hardware that supports the Open Network Install Environment. The open source project defines the platform for installing operating systems on bare-metal switches.

Juniper did not release a timetable for when companies could buy Junos-powered open hardware.

Providing more options for using Junos is the next logical step to Juniper's announcement late last year to make the OS available on a white box switch manufactured by Alpha Networks, said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates Inc., based in Boulder, Colo. At the time, Juniper's motivation was to provide a single product that fell into the price range of the white box switching market, which is less expensive than Juniper's proprietary hardware.

But Juniper faces data center operators today that want "freedom of choice in hardware and software," McGillicuddy said. "They also want access to more customization, so they can optimize their networks for very specific applications."

Arista Networks Inc. is among other switch manufacturers that have made their operating systems available on white boxes.

Finally, the QFX5200, which is expected to ship in a few weeks, is Juniper's first 25 GbE and 50 GbE switch. The product family is also capable of running 10 and 40 GbE, so customers can migrate to the higher speeds at their own pace.

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