Juniper Networks believes the transition to a multicloud world will create a massive opportunity to take enterprise market share and revenue from competitors such as Cisco.
That was the message from CEO Rami Rahim and CTO Bikash Koley during their keynotes at NXTWORK 2018, Juniper’s partner and customer conference.
In Juniper’s framing, enterprise network and IT teams already struggle in the data center to keep pace with scale-out architectures, business demands for agility, and operational complexity.
As more applications and workloads move to public cloud services, each cloud becomes an operational silo with its own quirks and constructs for configuration, policies, and security controls.
Network teams that try to operate in a multicloud world like they do on premises—via the CLI, with workflows that only exist as Word docs, and maybe with a handful of scripts that still need to be executed manually—will fail.
According to Juniper, the secret to success in multicloud is to borrow a page from the cloud providers themselves. The cloud giants are able to build and run massive infrastructures because of operational consistency.
They gain operational consistency through a few key principles: software abstraction of hardware, rich telemetry, standardized APIs and data models, and lots of automation.
Here’s The Pitch
Juniper’s strategy is to convince the enterprise that Juniper can provide a similar operational consistency through two core products: Junos and Contrail.
Junos, the company’s network OS, is the underlay. According to Juniper, Junos is a single operating system that can run on custom or merchant silicon, in whitebox or branded Juniper hardware, in VMs or containers, and in public clouds such as AWS.
Contrail is the overlay and orchestration layer. Contrail builds a network fabric that can extend from the enterprise data center and into and across public clouds. Enterprises use Contrail to set and enforce uniform policies and security controls wherever a workload runs—on premises or in a public cloud.
Contrail can also be deployed in brownfield environments to serve as the overlay. It can integrate with third-party switches from Arista, Cisco, and others, and inherit topology and policy details from VMware’s vSphere and vCenter.
Both JunOS and Contrail expose APIs with well-defined data models to enable programmability and automation, both by Juniper software and by third-party systems.
In Juniper’s telling, this is how enterprises can achieve the operational consistency required to thrive in a multicloud environment.
And it’s also Juniper’s opportunity, according to Rahim.
“This focus on operations will shatter the chains of incumbency in this space,” he said on stage at NXTWORK 2018.
“Billions of dollars will change hands. Those who stick to the familiar will lose to those who understand the power of operational consistency.”
If I Had A Nickel Every Time A Vendor Said Multicloud…
Juniper isn’t the only IT vendor preaching from the gospel of multicloud.
All of these companies, Juniper included, are trying to find ways to mask or shift complexity through software abstraction, overlays, and orchestration, and help network operators and engineers simplify day to day operations, both on premises and in the cloud.
I think Juniper is correct that multicloud opens an enterprise door (even if it’s just a crack). That said, Juniper has a lot of work to do to grab enterprise market share from Cisco and VMware.
VMware in particular has moved aggressively from compute into networking and cloud. You can certainly argue the merits of replicating your VMware environment in the public cloud, but it lets VMware paint a very clear multicloud roadmap for its legion of existing customers.
There are other hurdles as well—for Juniper and others.
If enterprises really are going to embrace automation, it will require immense amounts of training. Network engineers have to get familiar with scripting; learn how to work with APIs, data models, and programmatic workflows; and get up to speed on lots of new tools.
This training burden is significant. To its credit, Juniper is taking steps to help reduce this burden with new initiatives such as EngNet and NRE Labs, a set of tools, labs, and other programs to help network engineers skill up on automation.
The twin stories of operational consistency and multicloud are the right stories for Juniper to tell.
These stories align with the assets the company has, and the messages may appeal to IT organizations overwhelmed by complexity.
But telling stories is the easy part. The hard part is executing, and that remains to be seen.