Rami Rahim on the Juniper SDN strategy and OpenDaylight

Juniper EVP Rami Rahim talks about Juniper's approach to SDN, the EX9200, Contrail and OpenDaylight.

Rami Rahim, executive vice president of Juniper's Platform Systems group, recently met with TechTarget to discuss the company's switching business. In part one of a Q&A on SearchNetworking, he described the company’s direction on various switching products. In this Q&A, Rahim discusses Juniper's Contrail controller, the SDN properties of the EX9200, and Juniper's approach to the open source SDN project OpenDaylight.

[We are] in a world where SDN is still evolving, protocols are still evolving, [and] our customers are still trying to figure out what exactly they want to implement and how they want to implement it. So coming in with a story around the EX9200 and its programmability right down to its silicon is a very powerful story.

Rami Rahim,
executive vice president, Juniper's Platform Systems group

What is the state of the Juniper SDN strategy from your platform systems perspective?

Rami Rahim: From a platform perspective, we want to build really compelling systems for switching, security and routing that on their own are going to be very competitive. And then you want to also build fantastic SDN [software-defined networking] software, whether it be controller software like Contrail or services software like security that, again on its own, are going to be very compelling.

We believe in open interfaces everywhere in the data center. The way that services talk to the overlay [and] how the underlay talks to the overlay; we want to make that is as open as possible. Last but not least, I want to provide great synergies between the two, so in theory, you can go off and deploy our software on its own or our platforms on their own. But the synergies that we can provide between the two -- in terms of providing visibility into each other -- I think can be very compelling.

We believe we have a very compelling controller in Contrail. It's already in trials and going to ship by the end of the year. The hooks that will result in a Contrail-plus-Juniper-switching solution -- delivering value in the form of one plus one equals three -- is part of what we've been working on.

Very few data centers are in fact virtualized today from a network standpoint, but I think the merits of virtualizing the data center are absolutely there. I think SDN and overlay technologies are the best solution for achieving that, but let's do it in a way that provides you with the programmability to implement the data plane tunneling protocols you need; that provides you with the visibility you need in the network; that provides you with the gateway functions that you need between physical and virtual in the network. That's the core of our strategy.

How does the programmability of the new EX9200 play into your SDN strategy?

Rahim: [We are] in a world where SDN is still evolving, protocols are still evolving, [and] our customers are still trying to figure out what exactly they want to implement and how they want to implement it. So coming in with a story around the EX9200 and its programmability right down to its silicon is a very powerful story. You can now support a diversity of different data plane tunneling protocols. You want VXLAN, MPLS over GRE. These are all just software loads that run on the core platform.

In an overlay network, if you are thinking about achieving SDN with two independent layers with no touch points [and] no visibility into each other, I think that's going to make troubleshooting and diagnostics very difficult. Providing programmability down at the silicon layer to give information up to the overlay so you can start to do correlation and understand where issues occur, provides great tools that can be absolutely fundamental to troubleshooting a network when issues occur.

More on Juniper's
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BGP and XMPP-based control in Juniper SDN

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Understanding Juniper's Contrail strategy

Any data center today will have some component of it that will be non-virtualized. Even if you go to full virtualization, there is going to be some component with some switches or storage equipment that needs to be in the physical domain. So you need complex gateway functions that can bridge the physical and virtual worlds. We believe that putting those gateway functions in hardware is the right way to do it, because you need to do it at scale and with high performance. The merits of a really programmable core-aggregation device become evident.

How does Juniper plan to contribute to the open source SDN project OpenDaylight?

Rahim: Ultimately, Juniper wants to participate and figure out our best way to contribute to the effort, but in the meantime we are executing toward a thought-out and detailed existing strategy with respect to integrating with our own Contrail controller, our own service chaining technology and so forth -- and also, working with VMware. The majority of virtualized data centers on the server side are VMware-based. With the goal of making it as easy as possible for our customers to deploy our own infrastructure, we want to work very well with the VMware architecture. And, in the meantime, we will play it out with OpenDaylight and certainly take it seriously.

The real value, and where the money is going to be made, is in the infrastructure that supports all the things I've talked about and the software-based services that our customers are going to buy for their solutions, which is why we don't want to be religious about any one controller. We love the idea of open interfaces so it's easy to integrate into different controllers and focus on building the best infrastructure and the very best software services to pull the solutions together and solve problems for our customers.

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