Juniper Taps Into Datacenter Consolidation

Consolidation of assets is a key mantra for challenging economic times. It’s also one that is being trumpeted by Juniper Networks in a new datacenter infrastructure push that has virtualization as a key component.

The idea behind Juniper’s new Data Center Infrastructure solution set is that by using some of the company’s newest approaches and technologies, a business can reduce the amount of equipment required as well as the number of links across the various pieces of equipment — ultimately cutting costs.

The solution is built around the newly released SRX Dynamic Services appliances and the EX switch lineup.

Wrapping the offerings together is aimed at capitalizing on efforts by IT to cope with growing infrastructure needs while reducing expenses in what Juniper’s main rival Cisco recently described as a a gloomy outlook for IT spending.

“In today’s economy, where people are tightening their belts and possibly restraining spending as they go into 2009, there is even less money than there was before to do things that are innovative from the IT perspective,” Mike Banic, vice president of marketing for Juniper’s Ethernet platforms business group, told

Banic argued that there is too much complexity in modern networks, and by making networks simpler to manage, companies can save on costs — particularly by consolidating devices. Instead of having multiple switches to handle a section of enterprise traffic, traffic can be collapsed onto a lesser number of switches.

In Juniper’s case, its new EX4200 switch now has a virtual chassis technology that enables it to aggregate up to 10 physical switches. Virtual chassis technology is also used by other switch vendors, including Nortel and Cisco, among others.

Virtualization of datacenter assets can also help reduce disaster recovery costs. Juniper’s technology also can help enable replication — with one datacenter spanning two physical locations. In such a setup, what are actually separate networks will look and operate as one.

The way that the Juniper datacenter virtualization works is that when the two datacenters are located nearby, the virtual chassis technology on the EX switches can be extended. As a result, the two datacenters would have reduced data latency between them.

By using MPLS (Multi protocol label switching) Juniper can now extend a virtual LAN, or VLAN , across datacenters that still have data link integrity intact. (The data link layer of the IP stack is also known as level 2, in reference to the Open System Interconnection networking framework model.)

Using Juniper’s approach, Banic claimed virtual servers could be moved across datacenters. VMware’s Vmotion technology is the way that VMware-based virtual servers are moved across servers, though typically those servers are in the same datacenter.

“We’re using the MPLS VPN to preserve the layer 2 VLAN,” Banic explained. “Right now, to run VMotion, the source and the target has to be in the same layer 2 domain, and they cannot be across a routed interface. So that becomes a stumbling block for disaster recovery across the WAN between datacenters.”

Banic claimed that with the Juniper solution, live migration of virtual servers can be done with the servers remaining in the same state.

Juniper is not alone in trying to enable virtual datacenter migrations: Earlier this year, Cisco rolled out its strategy to enable virtual machines to move across datacenters.

Though Juniper is moving toward a fully virtualization-enabled network, Banic noted that Juniper is not getting into the business of trying to manage or deploy virtual machines.

“What we will do is open hooks into JUNOS [Juniper’s network operating system that is found on its devices] and our management applications that allows them to set network policies and configure the network to which the physical server and VM’s will attach,” Banic explained. “Our position is to provide the open interfaces to the applications that can manage the server and control the VMs.”

Banic said vendors like IBM Tivoli and VMware would be suitable for managing a Juniper virtual network. The company already has an expansive partnership with IBM for its EX switch lineup — a fact that Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson cited on Juniper’s recent earnings call. Banic noted that Juniper also has a working relationship with HP as well, and that the IBM partnership is not exclusive.

Overall, the message that Juniper is aiming to push is that it can help simplify for networking topology.

“The network design is simplified by collapsing layers,” Banic said. “We have one operating system for switches, routers and security platforms. By eliminating layers and reducing the number of devices, we actually eliminate a lot of links that are used to simply connect switches to switches, and eliminate a number of logical devices needed to manage them.”

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