Now testing its SDN controller, Juniper hones in on release later this year

Following Juniper Networks’ (s jnpr) acquisition of software-defined networking (SDN) startup Contrail, the company’s new JunosV Contrail controller for software-defined networking is now being deployed in beta tests with AT&T, (s t) the China Mobile Research Institute and other enterprises and service providers. The controller will become broadly available in the second half of the year.

Juniper says its Contrail software will be widely adoptable across devices from many vendors because it supports common protocols such as BGP and XMPP, although not OpenFlow. The controller “doesn’t have a dependency on a particular protocol like OpenFlow,” said Brad Brooks, vice president of marketing and strategy at Juniper. So network admins can run the software on much of their existing Juniper or Cisco (s csco) gear. Still, the architecture of the Contrail software is flexible and could support OpenFlow in the future, said Jennifer Lin, Juniper’s senior director of product management (pictured).

As it prepares to sell the controller as part of a new software-licensing model for the company emphasizing the ability to pay for it independent of hardware, Juniper is following through on a long-term strategic shift. The strategy could help Juniper stay relevant with software that can work with current and forthcoming hardware, preventing commoditization while enabling centralized configuration and programmability and applications higher up the stack.

Those objectives are increasingly important as data centers become more complex and fluid with virtualization, multitenancy and rapid scale-out. Juniper wants to run networks that allow those things to happen easily — and stay in the hardware business, too.