It was a successful year for Juniper – rated as the leading company in the “Data Centre and Cloud Networking” and “Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure” sectors by Gartner. This success can also be explained by Juniper’s advanced vision regarding the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in network control. This year, to drive forward this vision, Juniper has made a few interesting purchases.
Demands upon all company networks are growing constantly, and the associated complexity makes these networks increasingly susceptible to disruption. This means new approaches are required which mainly rely upon reducing complexity and automating the network.
The most important buzzword here is Software Defined Networking (SDN), which refers to the decoupling of hardware and software, separating the data plane from the control plane. This fundamental network concept makes it possible to stop thinking about networks solely in terms of infrastructure, and to design them with applications in mind. Intent-based or intent-driven networking focuses on the purpose of the data exchange. Consequently, this means user satisfaction is an important watchword for company networks.
With Mist, Juniper has already demonstrated that this approach – particularly in combination with AI – can revolutionise wireless networks. Wi-Fi quality has increased significantly in Mist-based networks and, at the same time, the number of support requests have fallen. However, it is not enough to merely focus on the last meters to the client: in future, administrators will need to look beyond the WAN edge. Thanks to the triumph of cloud applications, all network connections need to be rethought: from LAN and WAN through to the internet itself.
With its Mist Assurance Services, Juniper already offers the tools to define and monitor Service Level Expectations (SLEs) beyond the WAN edge. We’ve already presented how this works and what possibilities these offer extensively, in our blog articles A clear view from the client to the cloud — Mist extends its cloud services even further with WAN Assurance and Support for your network – Mist Cloud Services.
This year, to strengthen its presence in SDN and intent-based networking, Juniper has purchased three companies which are a perfect fit with Juniper’s vision. Automated deployment and constant network monitoring are central elements in driving forward the intent-based network. Supporting and controlling this with AI opens up new, undreamed of possibilities for network administration.
The purchase of Apstra was announced just a few days ago, rounding off an exciting year. This purchase shows that data centres are still an important area for Juniper – after excelling last year with Mist, particularly in campus networks.
Apstra specialises in intent-based networking and, with its Apstra Operating System (AOS), offers network administrators a way to create and control automated and AI-supported data centre networks. AOS is installed on its own server – and does not run in either the data plane or the control plane, but alongside the switch operating system instead. Control is undertaken via agents, which run on the hardware next to the operating system.
This independent architecture also means that Apstra is absolutely manufacturer-neutral. This should continue to be the case after its purchase by Juniper, as this neutrality also offers Juniper many advantages, for example, when performing migrations.
The purchase of 128 Technology is also focused on intent-based networking. However it offers new and innovative options for setting up WAN networks, and possibly demonstrates a completely new approach with regard to how the internet could work. 128 Technology offers a software-controlled approach for routing, which focuses on the application.
The company is convinced that, in the future, the actual infrastructure of networks will become less and less important for companies. Instead, networks must provide services for the users. These services – which are mostly now in the cloud and therefore outside the company’s own network – speak the language of ‘the session’. 128 Technology would like to incorporate these sessions into the data routing and, therefore, into the network infrastructure. They use the Secure Vector Routing protocol for routing – which not only incorporates these sessions into the routing but also enables the use of artificial intelligence.
This fundamentally new approach to routing could change the internet. But the technology provides significant advantages on a smaller scale too –in company networks, for example – since routing can be made more efficient, allowing resources to be used in a more focused way.
The purchase of the Swedish manufacturer Netrounds was already announced in September 2020. Netrounds offers a manufacturer-independent test and assurance platform for networks. So Juniper can use this to extend its expertise in WAN testing and monitoring, focusing on user experience.
Although, thanks to Mist Assurance Services, Juniper can already show great successes in this area, Netrounds offers a previously non-existent depth of test and monitoring options, across the entire network life-cycle. Netrounds’ solution offers a programmable test environment which can generate Level 1 to 7 traffic on the data plane – and can conduct tests not only while the network is being set up, but throughout its entire life cycle too. Here, too, the focus is on the user, as it is the data transport rather than the infrastructure which is tested. This allows direct conclusions to be drawn about the network quality.
Juniper’s strategy intends to perfect SDN
These purchases in 2020 show that Juniper is thinking its SDN approach all the way through to the logical endpoint. The future lies with separating software and hardware, as well as with AI-support for all areas of network administration. Juniper now has the right partners to make this happen. 2021 will be an exciting year for the future of network technology.