To date, I’ve never perceived Contrail as a true contender for SDN greatness. I felt that Juniper Networks has been overly attached to selling big routers to the service provider market and other niche markets instead of working on a broad portfolio of products that would shelter the company from market changes.
This left Contrail as “We need an SDN thing” instead of forming the basis for digital transformation to a software-focused networking company.
Recent rumors/scuttlebutt say that large cloud and telco customers are moving strongly AND quickly away from Juniper (and Cisco), which might leave their future revenues in a bad way. We know that service providers/telcos/carriers are turning to whitebox, open source and self-developed solutions and Juniper now finds its future under threat.
Finally, Juniper Software Defined Networking is getting some focus, which is that SDN is a universal tool and not limited to telco/carrier/cloud companies.
OpenContrail Now Tungsten
OpenContrail was a closed “open” project until recently. The ending of the Juniper-controlled and operated “OpenContrail Foundation” and transition to the Linux Foundation suggest that Juniper execs have a better understanding of what “open” means.
OpenContrail is rebranded ‘Tungsten Fabric’ and Contrail continues as a premium product. It’s now up to the community to make something of Tungsten.
The Linux Foundation today announced that OpenContrail, an open-source network virtualization platform for the cloud, has completed its move to the LF and has changed its name to Tungsten Fabric.
Formerly hosted by Juniper Networks, Tungsten Fabric is a scalable and multicloud networking platform. It provides a single point of control, observability and analytics for networking and security. It is integrated with many cloud technology stacks, including Kubernetes, Mesos, VMware and OpenStack
This puts the ‘old OpenContrail’ outside the company and scales back the resources allocated to the project so Juniper can focus on building new features that it can sell for money.
My perception is that Tungsten is valuable to solutions with a narrow focus on OpenStack and Kubernetes. That’s a solid foundation on which to add value.
During Network Field Day 17, a presentation on Contrail suggests that the focus has shifted to enterprise with a strong message around multi-cloud and branch. This slide sums up the core functions:
This YouTube video from the #NFD17 outlines the basic business case behind the ‘new’ Contrail as a hybrid cloud solution. The solution expands from Data Center to Hybrid and Multi-cloud. Of course, this is table stakes for an SDN solution today, so we need to be looking for the differentiation (the special sauce).
Contrail differentiates from Tungsten/OpenContrail by adding features specific to enterprise customers, who are willing to pay good money for such features (as VMware NSX revenue demonstrates). The key feature of Contrail was always the integration with Juniper MX routers ….. which isn’t much use to enterprises.
Let’s consider the Contrail pitch that I saw:
- Secure multicloud – any cloud, securely
- Use of Juniper vRouter code as a key differentiator
- Focused on subnets
- Focused on standards for networking – a work in progress
- Support for multiple public clouds as well as Kubernetes, legacy DC. Private cloud features are unclear to me
- Service chaining (useful but most enterprises don’t know what this is)
- Visibility and analytics through AppFormix
Some areas I’m concerned about:
- Route-centric, not app-centric networking. Paths are selected by route prefix, not by application (as NSX does)
- User experience – JNPR must transition from an operator-centric user experience to an enterprise-centric user experience
- Resources – JNPR is under pressure from shareholders and needs to show results. Can they spend enough money to turn it around?
- Competition – the market is maturing rapidly and there are many SDN vendors offering multi-cloud solutions. What does Juniper offer enterprises as a unique differentiator and value proposition? Contrail has maturity and strong brand, but what else? Is that enough?
The Etherealmind View
I’m confident that Juniper is fighting a rearguard action against SDN with the usual MPLS, Treo silicon, and Junos software. Short term revenue is important. Boosting Contrail SDN is the obvious path to revitalizing an enterprise portfolio as MSDC’s and operators move away from big routers and MPLS is commoditized.
Many telcos have made it very clear they are unhappy with existing approaches and are actively moving into open source, whitebox, etc. This week we saw Cisco announce that IOS-XR will run on third party approved hardware – effectively admitting that market has changed and they can’t stop it.
The ONF and the Open Compute Project are open source bodies run by telcos and Web-scale companies with the specific goal of avoiding vendors and demonstrating real momentum to move away from vendor networking devices where they can. And AT&T has been making waves with a series of announcements.
Positively, Contrail has several years of development behind it, including a number of customers showing working solutions and providing feedback for future product developments. Recent acquisitions Appformix and Cyphort show a portfolio commitment to analytics and security that enterprises are looking for.
There are other questions too. Developers are making design decisions and driving infrastructure cloud decisions. This won’t last forever, but early movers such as NSX, ACI, Nuage etc have made substantial wins.
Link: Juniper Networks – Juniper Networks Introduces Contrail Security to Help Enterprises Protect Applications in Any Cloud – http://investor.juniper.net/investor-relations/press-releases/press-release-details/2017/Juniper-Networks-Introduces-Contrail-Security-to-Help-Enterprises-Protect-Applications-in-Any-Cloud/default.aspx
Link: Network AI: AT&T’s Framework for Its Open Source Efforts That Will Drive our Software-Defined Network in 2018 and Beyond – http://about.att.com/innovationblog/att_framework
Link: OpenContrail is Now ‘Tungsten Fabric,’ Completes Move to The Linux Foundation – The Linux Foundation – https://www.linuxfoundation.org/press-release/opencontrail-is-now-tungsten-fabric-completes-move-to-the-linux-foundation/
Link: The Linux Foundation Hosts ‘DANOS’ Project, a Unified Network Operating System – The Linux Foundation – https://www.linuxfoundation.org/networking-orchestration/the-linux-foundation-hosts-danos-project-a-unified-network-operating-system/
Link: Linux Foundation Announces Further Harmonization Efforts, Celebrates New Members and Project Deployments – The Linux Foundation – https://www.linuxfoundation.org/press-release/linux-foundation-announces-further-harmonization-efforts-celebrates-new-members-and-project-deployments/