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Juniper sticks to strengths with cloud strategy

Building a strong cloud line up with acquisitions

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With scores of new cloud companies popping up and so many existing players jumping on the cloud bandwagon, we wondered where the traditional enterprise networking vendors stood?

Were they guilty of "cloudwashing" — slapping the cloud label on existing products? Were they ignoring the cloud and risking getting left in the dust? Were they scrambling to re-invent themselves as cloud service providers?

Turns out that companies like Cisco and Juniper, CA and Citrix are sticking to their core strengths and positioning themselves as enablers of the cloud, providing the underlying hardware and software just like they've been doing for enterprise and service provider customers for decades.

Juniper has a three-pronged cloud strategy that includes selling networking gear in the data centres of most major IaaS players, providing secure connections between virtual data centres and cloud customers, and orchestrating how virtualised resources get allocated to cloud application services.

The cornerstone of Juniper's cloud effort is QFabric, says Mike Marcellin, vice president of strategy and marketing for Juniper's Platform Systems Group. QFabric is a new switching architecture announced in March that creates a single logical switch connecting the entire data centre. It replaces Spanning Tree which links access, aggregation and core switches. By flattening the three tier network, QFabric reduces latency in the data centre, where most of the networking communication happens between servers or between servers and storage.

QFabric is also a product line that has been available since September comprising the QF Director management platform, the QF Interconnect chassis, which is the logical switch fabric and the QFX3500 node, a 10 gig top-of-rack switch that supplies high density ingress and egress ports.

"Juniper has made its mark in leading in scale and performance. We've massively rethought how high data centre networking happens and QFabric is how we are addressing performance there," Marcellin says.

On the security front, Juniper has a strong presence with its line of high-end SRX line of firewalls. Also, the company by way of the acquisition of Altor Networks late in 2010 now has a line of virtual network firewalls, the Virtual Gateway (vGW) series.

"For our customers who are trying to build out a cloud infrastructure, having a firewall sitting inside the hypervisor helps our customers round out their security story," Marcellin says.

One of the biggest issues facing IaaS vendors, contends Marcellin, is how to efficiently orchestrate the delivery of infrastructure services to the apps running in the cloud.

All the virtual elements that Juniper provides are to some extent manageable via JunOS Space, an open software platform that allows customers, partners and developers to build and deploy apps that manage and analyse Juniper-provided network infrastructure and conduct operations management.

"Think about an application that will let you configure many, many switches in an automated way. Or an application that lets you configure hundreds of virtual firewalls in an automated way,'' Marcellin says.

These tasks may sound pretty basic, Marcellin says, "but having a platform that enables this level of automated management will help Juniper customers avoid configuration errors in massive data centres supporting a public cloud."


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