Juniper CTO welcomes Nokia to data center switching arena

Juniper Image: Juniper Networks
Juniper Networks CTO Raj Yavatkar says his company can offer service providers a three-sided business model in order to become more profitable. (Juniper Networks)

Juniper Networks CTO Raj Yavatkar doesn't appear to be losing any sleep over Nokia's recent decision to compete against Juniper, Cisco, and Arista, among others, in the data center switching sector

RELATED: Make way Cisco, Arista and Juniper: Nokia enters the data center switching fray

Earlier in July, Nokia announced a new networking operating system (NOS), hardware and a Fabric Services Platform (FSP) toolkit for data center switching.

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Nokia also announced new hardware including the Nokia 7250 Interconnect Router (IXR), Nokia 7220 IXR-H series and Nokia 7220 IXR-D series platform. Juniper's PTX routers compete against Nokia’s modular chassis while its QFX squares off against Nokia’s fixed platforms. Nokia uses merchant silicon on its modular chassis while Juniper uses its own ASIC.

"I've been swamped with some other things, but I welcome more competition," Yavatkar said when asked if had been following Nokia's entry into the data center switching sector. "That's a good thing. But having said that, the only thing in general I can point out is that it's one thing to introduce products. It's another thing to have established platforms, customer relationships and credibility.

"Merchant silicon has been around for a long time and Juniper has been shipping switches for quite some time. So there are lots of possibilities with merchant silicon and we can do that too. Ultimately, I think it's a combination of software and the whole value platform that we can provide."

Prior to joining Juniper Networks in December, Yavatkar had career stops at Google Cloud, VMware and Intel.  

"One thing I'm seeing with enterprises is a lot more demand for automation," he said. "Coming in from Google I can appreciate that because people have a strong desire to emulate hyperscale like automation in their data centers. That requires you to go beyond the switching infrastructure and work within the software stack.

"People are building large data centers around this and they want to realize the benefits they see the hyperscalers having. They want similar automation."

As one example of collaboration between Juniper and a service provider, Yavatkar cited Juniper's work with Deutsche Telecom on a new CI/CD-based pipeline to enable automation.

"This approach will help it operationalize its environment similar to a software development or DevOps model," Yavatkar said. "Looking ahead, DT is interested in taking this model public and making it open source for other service providers to utilize."

Juniper is focused on extending its Contrail SD-WAN service, which includes visibility into the Mist Wireless LAN portfolio, into home offices and branches while enabling edge compute and zero trust security services and applications.

Yavatkar said service providers have a key role to play in regards to offering services and applications to enterprises.

"I think that its challenging for service providers because of 5G and because of hyperscalers coming into the market," he said. "I think there's a convergence of these things. It's creating a need for edge computing, or edge cloud, because you can't send everything to the cloud. Edge is the place for low latency, for saving data transfer needs back to the back end or to the cloud. You need edge computing for IoT, video streaming, cloud gaming, augmented reality for manufacturing, smart retail and smart healthcare.

"All of that means that you have a need for each cloud. Service providers own both the real estate and a prime spot to be able to offer those edge cloud services."

Juniper, which reports its earnings Tuesday afternoon, was struggling in its service provider division up until a slight turnaround in this year's first quarter. In April, Juniper's service provider orders increased 4% year-over-year in Q1, representing its first year-over-year increase since 2017.

Going forward, the challenge for service providers is finding the right business model to meet enterprises' needs while also establishing profitable relationships with hyperscale cloud providers.

On that note, Yavatkar said there's a three-sided business model for service providers. That model includes Juniper, service providers and application developers using the same platform. Juniper and the service providers provide the platform, manage it, operate it and gain revenues from it.  

The service providers could use the platform to offer "edge infrastructure-as-a-service" to third-party application developers, which would allow the service providers to capture all of the service revenue while the app developers generate their own revenues by offering their apps via a marketplace.

RELATED: Juniper Networks exec: How carriers can build a better telco cloud without large cloud providers

Through its partnership with StackPath, which has a global network of 45-full stack edge locations, content providers would pay StackPath for delivering their content while  StackPath pays a telco partner for the content delivered across the telco's network. End users pay telcos for the connectivity and compute/storage capacity while also paying content providers for their content.

"What I like about the service providers they also have business opportunities," Yavatkar said. "They don't just have to be just the connectivity provider. Now they can start offering some value added services.

"The real challenges are going to be if they insist on building everything themselves. Then it takes them much longer, there's an upfront cost, capital costs, as well as people skills costs. We believe that we can offer a three-sided business model to service providers."

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