Open Juniper Network OS Released

After launching a line of data center network switches that can run other companies’ operating systems, Juniper Networks has opened its data center network operating system Junos so other companies’ software can run on top of it. Initially, this capability is only available on a new line of Juniper hardware switches that run the open version of Junos.

Both the open version of Junos and Juniper’s new QFX5200 access switches, which support 25/50 Gigabit Ethernet, can be bought together or separately, the company announced Tuesday. When bought together, however, they enable deployment of third-party network services or applications directly on the Juniper platform.

They also enable users to write their own software directly to the platform using the software model defined by the Open Compute Project, the Facebook-led open source data center and hardware design initiative.

Major networking technology vendors opening up their stacks for greater interoperability is a recent trend. The traditional model for top vendors like Juniper, Cisco, HP, and Dell has been to sell tightly integrated data center networking solutions that included hardware and software and were completely closed and proprietary. In other words, you get the functionality and interoperability the vendor provides; nothing less, nothing more.

But web-scale data center operators like Google and Facebook found that off-the-shelf networking gear didn’t exactly provide what they needed. It was expensive, impossible to customize, and had functionality they did not need. Google was a pioneer among data center operators that started designing their own switch hardware and sourcing it directly from design manufacturers in Asia – often the same ones that built off-the-shelf systems for the incumbent vendors.

Today, it’s common for the largest web-scale data center operators to design and source their own hardware when products available off-the-shelf don’t fit their functionality or price requirements.

But there is also a growing market for supplying solutions with similar benefits to companies that operate data center infrastructure that’s large and distributed but isn’t quite at Google’s scale. These companies don’t have the resources to develop custom networking technology in-house but would like to take advantage of the price and feature flexibility the web-scale model promises. A new group of vendors has formed, including both big incumbents and startups, to go after these customers, such as smaller cloud service providers and telcos.

A lot of demand for greater openness and interoperability in data center networking is also driven by the advent of Software Defined Networking and Network Function Virtualization.

Data center networking software startups like Cumulus Networks and Big Switch Networks have brought Linux-based network operating systems to market. HP launched an open source network OS earlier this year.

Incumbent networking hardware vendors, including Juniper, HP, and Dell, have introduced hardware data center switches that can be used with third-party operating systems. Cisco, which has the biggest market share in data center networking by far, has not done so.