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SDN – Unleashing the Full Power of the Network
Jan 31, 2013

The need for software defined networking (SDN) is clear. Information Technology (IT) advancement is critical ITCoreBlocks.jpgfor breakthrough business advantages and leading businesses have created competitive differentiation by harnessing the full power of IT’s core building blocks, computing, storage and networking. But traditional networks have not kept pace with the improvements we’ve seen in virtualizing computing and storage, so the major shift brought about by SDN is that the network has become an equal participant in the orchestration stack to allow new value to be derived from IT investments. Now, more than ever, the network plays a pivotal role in driving business benefits for Enterprise and Service Provider customers, and Juniper has outlined a comprehensive vision and roadmap for customers to take advantage of SDN. (Read more in this blog post by Bob Muglia, Juniper’s Executive Vice President, Software Solutions Division: Decoding SDN)



What are the challenges of today’s legacy networks?  Traditional networks are inflexible and static, and were not designed for programmatic control. Network functions were hard-wired into chips, control and data planes were tightly coupled, architecture was monolithic, configuration was device-specific and generally manual and there were no well-defined APIs for sharing data path state with applications. This means that running these networks is challenging – both complex and costly – and deploying new applications and services takes way too much time.



At Juniper we have long held the view that the network must become a platform for innovation. Innovation lies in making the network an intelligent, programmable entity that uses information from within the network as well as that from applications and systems on top to make informed decisions to enable greater responsiveness to dynamic events, facilitate intelligent applications and allow optimal use of network resources.


Juniper’s vision for the network as an innovation platform was set into motion several years before SDN even had a name. We understood the fundamental attributes of programmability and started laying the foundation through network abstractions, automation schemes and programmatic interfaces.  We pioneered the decoupling of the control and data planes allowing the control plane to be run on an x86 server. We also created multi-layered workflow automations to allow workflows to interact with the network at different levels to accommodate the rate of change, and to enable customers to innovate independently, we published north- and south-bound APIs. We also adopted a philosophy of hybrid intelligence recognizing that the decision to centralize or distribute network functions is based on the domain.  So, for example, what gets centralized in a physically compact environment like the data center may be quite different from the optimal approach for a global IP network run by a major Service Provider.


Ultimately the network is only as good as the applications running on it.  The true value of networking comes from enabling dynamic awareness and control of the underlying topology by higher level applications where applications can direct the network about their needs and the network can be re-configured and re-provisioned accordingly. Simply put, SDN can provide better alignment between the network and the applications and systems that use them. In many ways, we have approached the network as a vast sensor array with visibility into traffic flows, security events, counters, usage data, etc., and have focused on exposing this network intelligence to OSS/BSS systems, management systems and other applications. We believe that enabling this closed loop, bi-directional interaction makes the network more robust and agile and the application and user experience more consistent.


We have held fast to the belief that a SDN platform must be architected from the ground up. The decisions one makes about what belongs in the silicon and what belongs in the platform and software have a direct impact on network scale, resilience, security and efficiency, and this is particularly true for SDN architectures in today’s hyper-scale, ultra dynamic environments with their high rate of change and level of complexity. 



From the outset, we designed our chips for scale, performance and fine-grained analytics, monitoring and behavior Juniperarchitecturalvision.jpgtracking. We did this through instrumentation and OAM protocols that alert orchestration systems about network state. This is particularly relevant in SDN architectures where overlays need to have visibility into network state like congestion. We have extended the value of our ASICs to SDN through Trio, a highly scalable, extensible chipset that is fully programmable and works seamlessly with Junos running topology-aware protocols like PCE, BGP and OpenFlow. Trio offers a very high degree of programmability without compromising performance or power efficiency. Trio is particularly powerful in handling high performance services like stateful flow accounting, which would run much slower on x86 processors. The Trio architecture derives its capability and efficiency from a Networking Instruction Set Processor (NISP) that is purpose-built for network forwarding tasks.



With Junos we have created an Enterprise and Carrier Class operating system common across our portfolio of networking products. The operational consistency that Junos brings across switching, routing, and security vastly simplifies the underlay network in an SDN architecture.  Junos includes native automation through built-in workflows that can be easily integrated with customer workflows. All functionality within Junos is exposed via XML, effectively providing a configuration channel for network operators. In addition, Junos is highly diagnosable and includes advanced instrumentation for co-relating and contextualizing network events allowing both applications and the network to be transparently tuned. A cross-domain, portfolio-wide operating system is particularly significant when chaining services because network operators do not need to deal with the complexity of stitching services across multiple operating systems each with a different control plane, management interface, forwarding, etc.


foundationnetransformation.jpgAt Juniper, the journey towards network transformation is exciting and starts at the foundation – the silicon, systems, and software that power the global Internet and large enterprise networks. 






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