Juniper executives dish on disaggregation, 5G and 400G

Juniper is working to diversify its product portfolio across 5G and 400G, and find a wider range of router customers, according to two of its execs. 

While the disaggregation of hardware and software seek to break up vendor lock-in with traditional integrated vendor offerings, it comes with its own set of issues, according to a Juniper Networks executive.

Instead of buying a package of network operating software and hardware  from a specific vendor or a system integrator, disaggregation allows service providers to pick and choose what they want, which includes cheaper off-the-shelf hardware.

Speaking at the Bank of America Global Technology Conference on Wednesday, Juniper Networks' Manoj Leelanivas, executive vice president and chief product officer, said that while his company has always embraced disaggregation the promise of reduced capex could get lost.

"If you look at white box, on the first blush it looks like, okay, there is a possible capex saving," he said, according to the Seeking Alpha transcript. "But if you deep dive, you find out that, no, there are multiple things you have got to do.

"There is software coming on top of it. Then there is system integration and testing that needs to be done. There is supply chain management that needs be done. Then how do you test the whole solution together and how do you support it all together?"

Leelanivas said that many of Juniper's customers who took the disaggregation approach found that while the capex may have looked a little bit smaller, "the actual operational cost and eventually the time to deliver the service actually increases quite a bit."

"So we have seen both options," Leelanivas said. "We are just keeping a very open mind to both options, providing all the flexibility and the programmability and the disaggregation needed for our customers.

"What we have seen is that even in cases where we disaggregated, our customers have come back to us and said 'Can you package them together?' So that is what we are seeing today."

Leelanivas said 90% of Juniper's research and development was targeted at software and that its Junos and Junos Evolved networking operating software provides the flexibility that customers need. As further examples of Juniper embracing disaggregation, Leelanivas said it uses its own internally developed silicon in some systems and merchant silicon in others.

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Juniper also has implemented Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) interfaces, which allow hyperscale cloud providers to program Juniper devices through the SONiC interface.

"We believe in openness, having programmatic interfaces and providing the visibility and automation and troubleshooting capabilities, and that is what is really powerful," he said. "It is less about the disaggregation between software and hardware. It's more about the abstraction of (the) network via open and stable APIs. And those are the core principles we are driving."

Calling all service providers

For the first time since 2017, Juniper posted a year-over-year increase (4%) in its service provider orders during its first quarter earnings call in April.

RELATED: COVID-19 supply chain issues weigh on Juniper Networks' service provider segment in first quarter

Juniper Chief Financial Officer Ken Miller said at the same conference that his company was targeting Tier II and Tier I service providers outside of North America for its routers. Miller also said that Juniper is putting a bigger focus on expanding into the metro and access sectors instead of relying on selling core and edge routing to the same set of Tier 1 customers. Cisco's service provider division has also struggled over the past several quarters.

"5G is the longer term growth driver which we are obviously ramping up for and expect that to payoff for us over the next several years as well," Miller said. "But really, it's about diversifying on the (service provider) routing side."

For 5G, Miller said from a capacity perspective, traditional routing, core and edge routing capacity build outs would start late next year, but would ramp up in 2022 and provide a tailwind for several years.

Leelanivas said Juniper has seen some success in the 400G field with design wins across its cloud and service provider segments. Miller said Juniper has new 400G software and silicon that are currently being tested in the market.

"We have had a lot of good feedback," Miller said. "The timing is uncertain. We expect it to be probably early next year to start to see some deployments. And those deployments will start to roll out over the next few quarters, but we feel good about our ability to break in.

"The last thing I would mention is, from a business perspective, we do believe, based on extensive discussions with customers that they do want choice, right. They are looking for not having a sole dependence provider in many of their strategic network layers. So we think there is an opportunity, there is an appetite for diversification there and we think it's a great opportunity for us."