Juniper OCX – Welcome to the Revolution

Early December 2014, Juniper announced their OCX products that are focused on open, disaggregated networking systems. As one of the instigators of the revolution, it will be intriguing to see which side Juniper is really on.

While competing with Juniper will be interesting, we’re happy to see them recognize the customer drive towards Open Networking. Juniper indicates that they are joining the ranks of start-ups like Cumulus Networks and industry leaders such as Dell in this inevitable industry transition… avoiding the “head in the sand” perspective maintained by some other networking vendors.

There were four main sources of information as part of the announcement.

Initial reading shows us a focus very aligned with Open Networking. They say things like…

Juniper announced the OCX1100 that combines … Junos® operating system with Open Compute Project (OCP) enabled hardware

Let me say that again: Customers will have the ability to remove Junos and deploy another vendor’s operating system

To some not familiar with Juniper, news that we are embracing an open hardware design might sound counterintuitive in that anything “open” is not aligned with our strategy. On the contrary, Juniper has always embraced open architectures and open protocols.

All these statements signal exciting times ahead.

Seeds of Doubt

Closer reading leads us to realize that, perhaps, we’ll have to wait until the product is really available to understand where Juniper is heading. Based on what’s been published, there is room for interpretation.

Alpha Networks will be Juniper’s ODM

Juniper uses many ODMs to build their product portfolio, and seemingly the OCX is no exception; note customers still acquire both the HW and SW from Juniper…. this isn’t really disaggregation. Cumulus Linux and existing Open Networking hardware are available via a variety of channels both standalone as well as bundled.

With the OCX platform, customers will have the ability to remove Junos from the hardware and deploy another vendor’s operating system

Juniper hasn’t indicated whether this hardware will be available without Junos installed, in fact, they also say ”The Juniper OCX1100-48SX is a 1RU network switch that’s designed to operate in the access layer. It ships from the factory with ONIE and a new, lightweight version of Junos that’s optimized for building IP Fabrics.” This seems to be contrary to the premise of customers purchasing hardware and software from their choice of suppliers.

We have built an optimized version of Junos specifically targeting those customers who build large IP-based fabric architectures. We have modified the functions of Junos, to enable those customers to utilize only the capabilities they need for this very specific business case.

So this really isn’t Junos; it’s a stripped down, modified version of Junos. What have they removed? Is this version of Junos available for other hardware platforms? Is Juniper trying to prop up their black-box product portfolio (EX and QFX)?

Smaller-volume purchases will be priced comparably to Juniper’s internally designed top-of-rack switches, Davidson says.

Hmm…. where is the customer gain here? They get a stripped down OS and “commodity” hardware for the same price as full featured OS and custom hardware.

Juniper has arrived first with the most, and we intend to stay there.

The “first” part of that statement is a bit of a stretch. Cumulus Networks arrived first in June of 2013, and our software guides over a million ports in production globally. Accton, Quanta, Penguin and Delta Networks have been providing open hardware to customers for a long time. Dell was the first tier 1 networking vendor to embrace Open Networking and they’ve fully committed their product line to the initiative.

The “most” part is also a bit challenging. The Juniper deep dive includes a OCX/QFX comparison list of 23 items. Of these,,there are 2 where OCX is “more” than QFX, 6 where OCX is “same” as QFX, and 15 where OCX is “less” than QFX. We’ll all have to wait to see how this compares to the rest of market.

Let’s just say 2015 will be a fun year

It’s clear that customers are demanding Open Networking from their suppliers, and the structure of the networking industry is at the beginning of a large change. Industry analysts are tracking disaggregated technology under the terms “whitebox”, “brite-box”, and “bare-metal”, and these people don’t move unless there are numbers to back them up.

We at Cumulus Networks anticipated this change and have developed technology, processes, partnerships, and business model that reflect these directions. We’re focused on speed of innovation, vendor choice, and affordable capacity.

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