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Is The Hobbit Trilogy a Metaphor for SDN?
Jan 8, 2015

The Hobbit Poster.jpgHave you seen the Hobbit film trilogy? In case you’ve been on a desert island somewhere, you should know that the final episode came out last month and it has been a huge success. The Hobbit was, of course, JRR Tolkien’s “prequel” to his epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, books that are the ur-volumes of the fantasy literature genre. Tolkien’s Middle Earth is populated by wizards, elves, dwarves, and a variety of other strange and magical creatures, including, of course, hobbits. Director Peter Jackson accomplished the prodigious feat of bringing the Lord of the Rings to the silver screen, and his trilogy was amazingly true to the original books. The same cannot be said, however, for his Hobbit film trilogy. Prodigious, yes, but this time Jackson has taken numerous liberties with the original Hobbit book.


And that, film and networking buffs, leads us to the tale of Juniper’s Contrail SDN products (Contrail Networking, Contrail Cloud Platform, Open Contrail). Because what Jackson has done with the Hobbit is similar to Juniper’s Contrail: he uses it as a platform. Tolkien’s work is the core, and upon this Jackson adds a number of characters, back stories, and details that flesh out the story to more fully recount his particular vision of Middle Earth. All true to the spirit, if not the text, of the original. And Contrail works the same way.


Contrail is a platform for network control and services applications. This platform can interoperate with a variety of different networking devices (Juniper products, Open Compute Platform switches – such as the new Juniper OCX - or products from other vendors). It virtualizes and pools these hardware devices and connections into abstract resource pools that it then presents to applications. A wide range of functions and services from a variety of vendors can plug into Contrail. So you can connect it to whichever Orchestration layer software you want, add a virtual firewall function from one vendor, virtual IPS/IDS from another, a load balancing function from yet another, and so on. The key is choice: Contrail as a platform gives you the choice of the best solutions for your particular environment.


A core SDN/NFV platform like Contrail provides you with scale, speed, flexibility and agility. Today, trying something new – a service offering, an application - to see if it works involves major investments in time, equipment, and resources. So you want to be pretty sure of it before starting. In the new, virtualized, world the Contrail platform makes it easy to spin up a virtualized function, trial it with a small subset of users or subscribers, and quickly decide whether to grow it or kill it.


Of course, the flip side of this operational effectiveness is that it all depends on properly setting up the environment initially to take advantage of the openness of the system. As with any project, there is a lifecycle to your virtualization project. Planning your environment to make it easy to build and flexible to operate is essential for getting the most out of SDN and/or NFV. Juniper Professional Services consultants have experience with many early adopters around the globe – they’ve seen lots of different scenarios and can help you develop the right architecture for your case. Additionally, putting together a full solution will usually involve a number of products from different vendors, all plugging into the Contrail platform. System integration skills are crucial in this environment, and this is exactly where many Juniper partners shine the brightest.


Creating the world of Middle Earth in the Hobbit films was the work of hundreds of people, all directed by the guiding vision of director Peter Jackson. So too your virtual environment will be the work of many people, and Juniper Professional Services consultants and Juniper partners are there to design the Contrail solution that fits your vision.