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Introducing the Juniper Networks Open Converged Framework for High-IQ Enterprise Networks
Jun 4, 2014

Today, Juniper announced a new Open Converged Framework (OCF) for the enterprise network—an innovative approach that allows the convergence of wired and wireless networks from different vendors using open, published interfaces.


Additionally, we are proud to announce Aruba Networks as the first partner to utilize the OCF to integrate their WLAN products with Juniper switching and routing platforms, alleviating the problems commonly associated with scaling, securing and managing wired + wireless enterprise networks.


While the OCF is relatively straightforward on the surface, accomplishing the data plane integration across multiple product families is more involved than it might initially appear -- the rest of this blog describes how Juniper plans to deliver this integration.


What Has Changed in Enterprise Networks

Until recently, WLAN networks were primarily deployed as secondary “convenience” networks, under the assumption that users had only one wireless device, if any at all.   As work habits evolved and wireless devices proliferated, the WLAN network has become mission-critical. To handle the increasing number of devices, applications and traffic flows, legacy overlay WLAN network controllers must be constantly upgraded to relieve the stress on the wireless data path.


SDN:  Separation of Data and Control Planes

As we’ve seen with the SDN movement, there are significant advantages to separating the control and data planes for certain network services; in fact, this separation is the crux of SDN.  The WLAN is no exception; decoupling the control and data planes allows both elements to scale independently, which enables both systems to be purpose-built to address the requirements of high-scale networks.  In large-scale WLAN systems, customers no longer have to pay twice for data plane hardware; instead, they can leverage the capacity and performance of the hardware in their existing network. Additionally, control and data plane autonomy allows for higher levels of redundancy and availability. Lastly, collaboration apps like Microsoft Lync benefit from control and data plane separation, as they have to continue scaling based on voice and video demands from the modern day enterprise network.


While the Open Converged Framework will deliver these benefits to enterprise customers, we have been very careful to stick to some fundamental design principles, described below. 


OCF Design Principles

The Open Converged Framework adheres to the following four design principles.


1.  IT’S GOTTA BE OPEN: At the heart of the Open Convergence Framework is the open sourcing of the Juniper interface, which allows third-party product integration with the Juniper network. Enterprises deploying converged networks should be free to choose best-of-breed products without having to pay a “lock-in” tax by using closed and proprietary solutions. With this announcement, Juniper is making this new interface available to third-party systems to directly interface with the Juniper data plane, creating truly open opportunities for convergence.




2.  FOSTER ROBUST COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE TWO WORLDS: Any convergence platform needs to be a communication channel between the data and control planes. This channel, called the Open Convergence Protocol, defines how information is exchanged between a switch terminating the WLAN data plane and the WLAN control service. In this model, a WLAN controller manages the control and AP data paths while the client data path is terminated at the core switch. Client policies for network access, security and QoS are communicated to the switch by the WLAN controller using TMP.  Leveraging the programmability of the silicon found in the Juniper EX Series and MX Series platforms, a Juniper partner can implement this protocol and access the scalability and features of the Juniper switch infrastructure. 



3.  DO IT AT THE CORE OF THE NETWORK, NOT THE ACCESS:  Juniper’s vision for the Open Converged Framework is to enable service integration at multiple levels of the network – from core to aggregation to access.  The first release of the Open Convergence Framework will focus on core/aggregation convergence, with other options becoming available over time. For most large enterprise networks, service integration is likely to have the greatest impact at the core. With enterprise traffic predominantly moving north and south through the network, integrating services at the core lets customers leverage the capacity and resources found in these boxes for applying services. 


4.  PROGRAMABILITY IS KEY.  Programmability presents so many possibilities; open WLAN convergence via the Aruba partnership is just the first example of leveraging the programmable silicon in the EX Series and MX Series products for third-party data plane integration. This same open interface will be available to other partners in the future, with integration opportunities spanning fields such as security, policy, logging/reporting and others.


By integrating intelligence into the enterprise, customers have simpler networks to deploy and manage, with greater capacity by leveraging existing data plane investment, all while enabling new capabilities for advanced end-user services. An industry first, the Open Converged Framework not only enables new services on Juniper switches and routers, it also allows third-party services to integrate with the platforms.  


The Open Converged Framework is an exciting development for High-IQ enterprise network builders. Juniper and Aruba are delivering a future where customers can integrate best-of-breed services into the very fabric of their switching infrastructures, enabling new models for highly intelligent, highly optimized, highly open High-IQ networks.

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