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Juniper CTO Bikash Koley Discusses NFV’s Struggles, Cloud Native And The New Focus on Software Solutions

Juniper Networks is using a playbook similar to that of its rival Cisco as it works toward becoming more of a software-centric company.

In this interview with FierceTelecom, Juniper CTO Bikash Koley said he expects the company to have even more software components across its switching, routing and security solutions.

“Our approach has been we have completely disaggregated our software so that you can run the same software on a merchant silicon, including white box,” he said. It makes sense. In fact, we do that for some of our customers. You can take the same software and run that on Juniper silicon, where the Juniper silicon is the most capable and cost effective way of doing the network functions that you need to do. The beauty of this model is that you actually don’t pick and choose a different operational model than you’re doing.

“Where we have gone one step further in this disaggregation path is where we have said we are going to build an operating system that allows you to leverage merchant silicon based on your use case.”

In the most recent second quarter, Juniper’s software business did grow by 27%, but it makes up just 10% of the company’s revenues. Juniper’s revenues were down in the second quarter, having dropped by roughly $100 million from $1.31 billion in same quarter a year ago  to $1.20 billion.

Juniper’s fortunes did receive a boost recently when Ericsson picked Juniper as one of its partner for its end-to-end optical transport solution for 4G and 5G.

In this Q&A, which was edited for length and clarity, Koley talks about NFV, Tungsten Fabric, cloud native, and Juniper’s use of software.

What does the industry need to do to move virtualization forward?

Bikash Koley: We’re actually seeing lots of progress towards virtualization. The company’s focus on Contrail as a platform should be indicative of how seriously we take virtualization. We have a very large deployed base of Contrail. I would say a significant majority of Tier 1 service providers that have deployed virtualization, they have deployed that on us.

There is reason for that. We actually have made a few things easy for them, which used to be one of the challenging parts of virtualization. We sell them a telco cloud solution that not only offers them the NFVi stack but it also offers, in partnership with Red Hat specifically but other providers as well, the compute and the storage set all combined together with a single pane of glass management and single pane of glass visibility for performance. All of that makes the operation of a telco cloud viable with operations team that many of them have.

When I’ve asked other people that virtualization question they’ve mentioned the complexities of deploying NFV and the need for more standard VNFs. Do you agree with those assessments?

Koley: NFV has been more difficult than it needed to be. Part of the reason being, in some cases it went too far down the disaggregation path where it was disaggregated so much that putting it back together took a lot of work. Many have learned from that, and the leading ones have taken a path where it is not disaggregated to that level but it’s still based on open technology.

The VNF transition still remains a problem, but the leading vendors are providing VNFs that work. We have worked with many leading vendors of VNFs, including our direct competition, where they work seamlessly on our NFV stack.

It all depends on what choices people have made on the NFV stack. You’ll probably hear a slightly different view if you talk to those who have been deploying our stack. Not to minimize the problem statement itself, it is complex, and we’re trying to simplify that. That has been our approach.

Have there been any unexpected use cases since Juniper put OpenContrail into open source as the Linux Foundation’s Tungsten Fabric?

Koley: Contrail used to be open source even before it was called OpenContrail. It was not a community like open source, but the interesting part is it’s a product that has a lot of customers who have a lot of direct interest into the direction of the product. That was part of the reason that we took it to Linux Foundation, because it was not a community that we had to form from scratch. There was already a pretty vibrant community of users of Tungsten Fabric, who were in fact using that in their production use case.

In fact, if you look into the Tungsten Fabric board members, you’ll notice that it’s a combination of companies like ourselves that develop as well as companies that consume. In some ways it hasn’t been anything new, but on the other hand, being part of Linux Foundation networking ecosystem is a good thing because there are other projects in that umbrella that we directly contribute into, Linux being one, P4 being another one. Very recently, we are one of the leading members of Akraino, that’s the edge compute stack that LFN is standardizing. Being part of the Linux Foundation community actually allows us to interact with these projects that are sort of in a close neighborhood, and also figure out where we can go and contribute our insight. So I see that as a huge positive of moving to Linux Foundation. – Fierce Telecom

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