Do you have ideas for new network-integrated software solutions that would give customers new ways to deliver high-value network services or enhance their operations?
If so, I'd like to introduce you to Juniper Networks OpenLab, a New Jersey-based center for software innovation, which has helped my company as we introduce our product to the market. OpenLab provided training and supporting lab hardware and software resources, access to customers to validate our ideas, and demo resources to showcase the solution we built.
First, let me outline my journey from Associate Professor to co-founder of Gencore Systems, a spinoff from the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Computer and Information Science. My Penn research team NetDB@Penn explores disruptive technologies on programming platforms and analytics tools for designing, implementing, and securing distributed systems. Following six years of earning multiple awards at research conferences for our team's dissertations and papers, we started thinking seriously about commercializing our work. Our first challenge was to identify a worthwhile problem we could solve using our research--in a large addressable market--and be plugged into the commercial ecosystem from Day 1.
While at UPenn, we were first introduced to OpenLab through a New Jersey Technology Council event in 2012. Intrigued by the new facility, my graduate students attended training sessions at OpenLab to learn about Juniper's programmable assets and tap Juniper's experience with SDN. It wasn't all strictly work; my students came in 1st in an SDN Software Workshop and Competition (or "hackathon") that OpenLab hosted with AT&T in January 2013--and another team of my students won 2nd place in a second competition that OpenLab hosted with Comcast in November 2013.
OpenLab helps nurture product ideas into production solutions
OpenLab training and workshop tutorials gave my students--some of whom are now Gencore employees--exposure to state-of-the-art routing technologies, plus SDN and various programmable software assets in the Juniper portfolio, including Contrail. This knowledge and access enabled us to understand how to integrate research code into a production setting.
Many institutions and R&D labs have network simulators, emulators, and experimental test beds. However, it's often difficult to gain access to real networking gear or production-level software. OpenLab makes it easy for us to tap into its array of resources, locally or remotely.
Harnessing SDN and NFV to solve major customer challenges
Our first product, A3, which stands for Application-Aware Analyzer, is a lightweight and agile software appliance for application performance monitoring in cloud environments. A3 is designed to work on existing and next-generation cloud infrastructures. We use SDN technology to mirror traffic by inserting A3 into the service chain. Without adding overhead to any of the virtual machines running in the service chain--simply by observing a sample of the traffic--A3 quickly identifies and pinpoints application performance problems.
A3 enables cloud operators and tenants to proactively identify and fix problems before they affect the customer experience. SDN facilitates deployment of A3 without having to install any agents on tenants' virtual machines. Today, A3 identifies performance problems in real time; the next step for us is to add predictive analytics and actuation so that A3 automatically fixes the problems it identifies. Since enterprises and service providers are always seeking to minimize downtime and loss of revenue due to performance problems, we are confident that we're addressing a continuing market need.
After successfully completing one project with an east coast ISP, we are currently piloting A3 at a number of companies, including a west coast publishing company that is deploying A3 in a production cloud environment, and two others that are using A3 together with the Juniper Networks Contrail platform. At every step along our path, OpenLab has been tremendously helpful to us. Most recently, Juniper invited several customers to join us at OpenLab to tour a demo of A3 and discuss how it could help them manage their cloud infrastructures.
On the immediate horizon, we're setting up A3 to run on OpenLab equipment so it can be shown anytime. As one of Juniper's newest technology partners, we look forward to continuing our long-standing relationship with our friends at OpenLab.