Juniper Networks And Its Automation Journey

Juniper Networks
 JUNIPER NETWORKS

It is no secret that I have been critical of Juniper Networks in the past. Historically, the networking infrastructure provider was overly focused on the service provider market, limiting its reach and top-line revenue. However, things began to change with Juniper’s acquisition of Mist Systems one and a half years ago. Mist’s focus on artificial intelligence and its exceptional location-based capabilities have opened up the enterprise networking market to Juniper. I had the opportunity to speak to Juniper CEO Rami Rahim this past March on several topics, including the company’s response to the pandemic.

Another one of our discussion areas was automation, and I was impressed to see the company focus on the topic at the recent Juniper Analyst Day. I believe Juniper was able to assemble an impressive automation portfolio in a relatively short period, thanks its roadmap efforts, partnerships and another acquisition announcement made last month. I want to dive into each and provide my insights into what I believe is compelling within them.

NorthStar and HealthBot platforms

NorthStar Controller is a software-defined networking controller that automates the control of segment routing and data flows across a broad continuum of networks, from service provider to cloud to enterprise networks. The offering seeks to provide visibility into network traffic flows in real-time by gathering streaming telemetry. It then analyzes the data to provision new service paths and optimize capacity and performance. NorthStar Planner is a tool that enables network visualization and planning. I believe it will help providers forecast the impacts of network changes with respect to latency and traffic flow.

HealthBot is a multi-domain network diagnostic platform that provides actionable insights into network operations. HealthBot can also aggregate time-series telemetry data, employing machine learning and programmability to provide a comprehensive view across the network and applications. Leveraging these capabilities, Juniper claims that HealthBot can establish benchmarks, determine anomalies and remediate issues. Both NorthStar and HealthBot address the fundamental areas of planning, deployment and ongoing network operations on the surface. However, given NorthStar and Healthbot’s historical ties with Juniper’s Contrail effort, there will likely be legacy architectural issues that could benefit from broader scale and multi-vendor device support. This could explain Juniper’s partnership with Anuta Networks. 

Anuta Networks partnership 

I have followed Anuta since its inception nearly a decade ago. The company’s founders and advisors are a who’s who from networking infrastructure and solution providers, spanning Cisco, Ericsson, IBM, Nortel and others. Anuta built its ATOM platform from the ground up to be microservices-oriented, containerized and highly scalable, to meet both enterprise and service providers’ needs. I’ve written about Anuta in the past—if interested, you can read that article here. What I like most about Anuta is its comprehensiveness, ease-of-use and web-scale architecture. Competitors such as Apstra and Gluware promise similar functionality, but when you peel back the marketing layer, you find refactored legacy architectures and few customer wins. I also find ATOM’s support for 45+ vendors and 100+ platforms to be quite compelling. Juniper and Anuta announced its partnership in June of this year, and I suspect it has helped bolster Juniper’s effort to crack the enterprise side of its business. 

Netrounds acquisition 

Juniper announced its intention to acquire the nearly 15-year old test and service assurance platform, Netrounds, in late September. Network assurance is critical to ensure applications and services perform as expected. I’ve written on this topic in the past, referencing one of my favorite movies to illustrate my point—you can find that column here. Like the Anuta partnership, I believe the Netrounds acquisition fills some crucial gaps in the Juniper automation roadmap. It is also worth noting that in the past Cisco used Netrounds to power the assurance capabilities of its Cisco NSO (Network Service Orchestrator) offering.  

Wrapping up 

I believe the network automation market is generally a fragmented one. Most offerings focus on one particular feature, or they cover many, but not at any significant depth. I also find that many automation solutions focus on either the enterprise or service provider market, but not both. I like Juniper’s automation strategy. The company is discovering the strength of leveraging organic roadmap development, partnerships and acquisitions to bring its set of automation capabilities to market. These efforts have quickly improved Juniper’s position within the network automation market. For that matter, I believe Juniper will soon find the enterprise market success that eluded it in the past. It will be interesting to see if automation helps Juniper break through the $5B annual revenue ceiling that has hovered over them for nearly a decade. Time will tell.