JUNOS: Open, but Not Open Source

At the heart of every networking device is an operating system that enables traffic flow. In the case of networking vendor Juniper, that operating system for the past ten years has been JUNOS, a network operating system with its roots in the open source FreeBSD operating system.

Juniper has updated JUNOS every 90 days since 1998. For Juniper, the corporate strategy is to offer a single OS across its routing and switching equipment. The single OS strategy is intended to help make it easier both for Juniper and for users. It also helps to differentiate Juniper against its competitors in the networking space that often have multiple network operating systems.

“For our high-performance business customers, the network is critical to their success,” Michael Bushong, Senior Product Manager, JUNOS Software, Juniper Networks told InternetNews.com. “Specifically, the performance and functionality of the operating system underlying the network is essential to delivering against their business goals.”

The first version of JUNOS was available on July 7, 1998 and since then Juniper has been updating it with new features every quarter. The release of JUNOS 9.1 in May of this year marked the 38th consecutive release of the operating system.

JUNOS itself is not an entirely new construct, but rather benefits greatly from open source.

“JUNOS software is, indeed, based on FreeBSD,” Bushong said. “Probably the most obvious benefit of using FreeBSD in our software is the Unix-like environment that comes with it. Customers can access a Unix shell and perform normal Unix commands that can be quite helpful with the regular upkeep of our routing platforms.”

FreeBSD is one of the oldest open source operating systems still in existence and is a direct descendant of the original open source BSD work performed at the University of California at Berkeley. Though Juniper has benefitted from an open source operating system, JUNOS itself is not open source though Bushong was quick to note that Juniper has opened it up in a sense.

“Juniper created the Open IP Solution Development Program (OSDP) to allow customers and partners access to the Partner Solution Development Platform (PSDP), which includes a Software Development Kit (SDK) with intelligent and secure interfaces to JUNOS,” Bushong explained. “As we continue to evaluate the needs of our customers in an evolving marketplace, we are satisfied that the current PSDP model of open, not open source, will continue to accelerate industry innovation, while maintaining the protections and safeguards so critical to our customers.”

One of the key things that JUNOS has delivered to Juniper customers is a degree of predictability. Every 90 days there is a new release providing fixes and improving functionality. It’s a relentless development cycle that is critical to Juniper’s business.

“It’s funny. Almost everyone I talk to wants to know how we can continue to ship feature-rich releases every 90 days,” Bushong said. “Really, the biggest enabler is the fact that we focus our resources on a single operating system for our routing and switching platforms. We made a decision on day one that we wanted to develop and maintain a single operating system.
By focusing on that one OS, we gain efficiency on both the development and the test sides of our R&D efforts, allowing us to implement something once, deploy it everywhere, test it once, qualify it everywhere.”

That said, Juniper does have other operating systems in its product mix beyond JUNOS. Juniper WAN acceleration products use
and their security intrusion prevention systems run Linux.

“When we talk about a single OS, we are really talking about the networking OS that drives our routing and switching platforms,” Bushong explained. “So for the platforms that act primarily as routers and switches, the code is derived from a single code base. Directionally, we will continue to integrate technologies into JUNOS software and extend those capabilities to new platforms, spanning the routing, switching, and increasingly the security products.”

Though Juniper’s JUNOS is now turning 10 it’s still somewhat younger the its rival Cisco’s core networking operating system IOS, which originally stood for Internetworking Operating System.

“Cisco IOS is the core software technology at Cisco and was initially introduced in our first gateway products, the name at the time for a router,” Cisco spokesperson Linda Horiuchi told InternetNews.com.
“Cisco was founded in 1984. In our on-going commitment to address customer requirements, we have continued to enhance and add innovative new capabilities to Cisco IOS numerous times.”

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