Juniper Networks lines up projects to push automation forward for carriers and enterprises

Juniper Networks is pushing automation forward for enterprises and service providers with several new projects. (Pixabay)

Juniper Networks is taking a multi-pronged approach toward dialing up automation processes that includes an open-source community and online lessons.

The vendor is in the process of reinventing itself into a more nimble, software-driven company as it attempts to take a leadership position in the automation segment.

While other entities, such as the Open Networking Automation Platform, are focusing on the nuts and bolts of automation, Juniper may find traction with its various announcements today by working on employees' skill sets and with teaching the processes of automation. For smaller service providers that don't have access to labs and testing, Juniper is allowing them to kick the tires for free, or pay-to-play to test automation services.

"Basically what we've noticed is that while there has been a lot of attention on network automation in the industry from all of our customers, partners, and even from all of the different vendors, the reality is we haven't seen a lot of change," said Juniper Networks' James Kelly, lead cloud and SDN architect, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "We haven't been able to transform the people and the processes to actually get automated network operations. We've got a lot of network automation tooling and technology, but we haven't actually focused enough on the processes and the people."

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The first element of Wednesday's automation-based announcements by Juniper, all of which are targeted towards service providers and enterprise customers, is Juniper EngNet. EngNet blends automation tools, resources and social communities onto a single site for access by a web browser. The site has API documentation, access to various Juniper Labs, virtual resources, a learning portal and an automation exchange that features network automation tools.

"The automation exchange is where people will basically catalog a set of things that Juniper, as well as other people in the community, submit in order to share pieces of technology or things that are basically useful," Kelly said. "The community also has a communications section in it to let people communicate with each other. People can ask quick questions and banter back and forth on things like Slack."

Kelly said Juniper would continue to support J-Net Community, which is a platform for blogging.

The second element announced Wednesday is Juniper's NRE Labs, which provides engineers and network operators online and interactive network automation lessons that focus on real life issues such as troubleshooting, verification and configuration. Inspired by the site reliability engineering (SRE) movement, which is a term that was popularized internally by Google, NRE Labs allows engineers to practice their automation skills and apply those learnings to automating workflows in their own networks using the open tools from the lessons.

Juniper created NRE Labs as an open-source project, which means even competitors, such as Cisco, can participate and contribute.

"Juniper is simply sponsoring the run time at the infrastructure, and powering the front-end and the web browser," Kelly said. ""The reason that we did this in an unbranded way is because we wanted to have this look and feel more like it’s by and for the network engineers. It's not something that engineers are going to be skeptical of as another marketing tool, or something like that. So there's no tracking of logging in or things like that. It's just a way that people can go and learn automation."

In NRE Labs, Juniper has broken up the automation topics into various lessons that include real-life engineering workflows. Each of those lessons are in turn broken down into quick and easy bite-size chunks that users can navigate in a short amount of time, according to Kelly.

On the pay-for-play front, Juniper also announced its Cloud Customer Certification Labs (CCL) service, which provide users with access in Juniper's cloud to design and run a virtual lab environment consisting of networking systems, traffic generators and other network automation tools. CCL is hosted virtually on Juniper's cloud and at various physical locations that Juniper has around the globe.

Complimenting CCL is Juniper's professional service offerings, which includes  a variety of educational, professional and advanced engineering services to improve network automation capabilities.

"So the stuff that we monetize here is the Cloud Customer Certification Lab, and then we have professional services that is more like testing as a service," Kelly said. "We also have formal educational services, such as classroom-style automation learning, that we're launching, and we monetize those as well."