Juniper Takes Contrail to the Cloud


By: Michael Vizard

Juniper Networks today took a significant step toward unifying the management of networking with the launch of Contrail SD-WAN as a Service, a cloud-based implementation of the management framework for the company’s software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN).

Contrail Service Orchestration, which supports Juniper's SD-WAN service, can not only manage the company’s SD-WAN, it is also integrated with the cloud-based management framework for managing wireless networks that Juniper gained via an acquisition of Mist Systems that closed last week. Juniper has also integrated Contrail SD-WAN with both its own firewalls and the cloud security service provided by Zscaler.

Finally, Juniper also revealed its SD-WAN now supports more variations of passive redundant hybrid WAN links as well as centralized hubs and topologies such as hub and spoke, partial mesh and dynamic full mesh, and the ability to allow Internet traffic breakout at the WAN edge. Juniper also says EANTC, a provider of network testing services, has validated that the company’s SD-WAN can scale above 10,000 spoke sites.

Unified Software Management

Juniper is working toward unifying the management of what will eventually become a flat enterprise network in a piecemeal fashion, says Michael Bushong, vice president of enterprise cloud marketing for Juniper Networks.

“The goal is to abstract operations from the devices,” says Bushong.

The most logical place to initiate those efforts is to first unify the management of wired and wireless networks, says Bushong. By connecting Juniper’s EX Series Ethernet switches to a single or dual WAN gateway, for example, it becomes possible to centrally automate policy and provisioning for both the WAN and local area network (LAN).

Juniper Networks will also look to further unify SD-WAN and wireless network management, adds Bushong.

Most organizations, however, are a long way from unifying the processes required to meld the management of networking on an end-to-end basis, notes Bushong. As such, Juniper Networks will continue to focus on unifying specific network function, one individual case at a time, says Bushong.

Shifting the management plane into the cloud is clearly a prerequisite for achieving that goal. Following the acquisition of Mist Systems and the shifting of the SD-WAN management plane into the cloud, there are two cloud platforms that Juniper will eventually have to unify. With the release of Juniper's SD-WAN service in the cloud, network administrators can now view operational and analytics data collected from the Mist WiFi network alongside enterprise networking and security analytics.

Integrating Mist

Much of Juniper’s efforts to unify networking will be dependent on its capability to deploy the software based on machine learning algorithms that Mist Systems developed to create a Marvis virtual network assistant through which it assures and maintains WiFi network performance levels.

Juniper Network is now immersed in an arms race to infuse artificial intelligence (AI) into all aspects of networking. It’s not likely AI will replace the need for network administrators, but Marvis will automate a wide range of networking tasks that will make it possible for fewer administrators to manage networks at scale. It’s unclear to what degree achieving that goal will require enterprise IT organizations to standardize on networks from a single vendor. But larger networking vendors such as Juniper and Cisco are clearly hoping this turns out to be very much the case.