Concentric Circles of Network Convergence

Michael Vizard

For a long time now, Juniper Networks has been making a case for high-performance networking equipment, many in the form of routers. But in recent months, Juniper has made a significant push into the Ethernet switching category, making the same basic argument that it made in the router space, which is that there are sets of applications that require a high-performance fabric of network switches and routers that work best under a common JunOS network operating system.

That Juniper argument, however,  usually came with a higher price tag that tended to limit its appeal. But with the massive changes taking place in IT, the Juniper argument is starting to resonate across a broader set of application scenarios. As we look toward the next generation of enterprise networking, it's pretty clear that virtual machines coupled with geographically distributed applications that have low tolerances for latency are going to bring a lot of pressure to bear in network infrastructure.

Complicating this situation are multiple waves of convergence taking place first within our servers, then within our data center and eventually across our wide area networks. Within servers, we're seeing the emergence of virtual switches on every virtual machine. These virtual switches need to be managed both within the system and as elements of the overall data center. Some of those virtual switches will be embedded in new highly integrated servers from companies such as Cisco and Hewlett-Packard, while others will simply be elements of the virtual server running on top of a standard physical server.

In either scenario, these switches, said David Yen, executive vice president and general manager for Juniper's Fabric and Switching Technologies business unit, all need to be commonly managed and integrated with the physical switches that connect all the assets in the data center, which in turn need to be connected to the routers that link the data center to the rest of the Internet. The best way to go about accomplishing that is using a common network operating system to manage all the interrelationships between virtual and physical assets in the data center, said Yen.

Juniper, as it gets a little more confident in its approach, this week started a 'Switch to Juniper' incentive program as part of an effort to gain share in a segment of the networking space where it has little presence. But as more convergence comes this way, chances are that the Juniper Network story and others like it are going to get more of a hearing as IT organizations struggle to adapt to a new way of networking across data center systems that will be running within both public and private cloud computing services.

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