Software is important to networking, and Juniper is on it

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Session Name: SDN: The Networking Industry’s Biggest Disruption Since the Internet

Joe Weinman David Linthicum Bob Muglia

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Joe Weinman 00:03

All right, that was great. Continuing with the theme of executive fireside chats, we now have up David Linthicum who’s an SVP at Cloud Technology Partners and also writes for GigaOM. As well as Bob Muglia, who is now at Juniper and it’s our favorite topic, Software Defined Networking. So please join me in welcoming them to the stage.


David Linthicum 00:29

We had a big discussion back stage about–

Bob Muglia 00:31

Where to sit.

David Linthicum 00:31

— where to sit. So evidently the guys before were too far apart, and they want us “to snuggle in.”


David Linthicum 00:39

So we’re snuggling in.

Bob Muglia 00:39

Does he look snuggley or what?

David Linthicum 00:40

Yeah. So anyway, my name is Dave Linthicum, and let’s talk about software defined networks. What do you think Bob? You want to talk about software defined networks?

Bob Muglia 00:47

It’s better than snuggling.

David Linthicum 00:49

[chuckles] So, I’ve got a question for you. Cloud computing emerged over the last eight years and networking were kind of on the sidelines. What’s occurring inside of your company as cloud computing was emerging and what became more important and how did priorities shift, in terms of your discussion?

Bob Muglia 01:10

First of all, I wasn’t at Juniper when cloud computing emerged. I’ve been there for about two years now, I was at Microsoft and we were really focusing on helping companies to build, at the time, virtual infrastructures. But what I can tell you for sure is that the network has been a bottleneck for infrastructure overall, and I think that’s something the folks at Juniper really recognized. And we talked about programmable networking a long time ago, and I think the approach that we took was probably not the approach that the industry will take in the long run. But never the less there was an acknowledgment that there was a challenge associated with the way networks were configured and managed. Particularly because it’s an in the box style thinking, and software can really free that. And that’s, I think, the big change.

David Linthicum 01:55

So, most enterprises that I talked to don’t understand what the heck software defined networks are, even networking engineers. How do we convince enterprises that software defined networking should even be on their radar in creating strategies around that as they start moving into cloud computing or just into the future.

Bob Muglia 02:13

Right. I think that the challenge people have, they see that the network is inflexible and they understand that there’s a set of challenges associated with the cost of managing that, but the motivation to really create the shift happens with the move to private clouds within the enterprise. And if you look over the last eight or ten years or so, we’ve seen a shift from a physical infrastructure where it took weeks to provision a new application to a virulent infrastructure where IT can do it with an email message and couple of days. And we’re now seeing companies what to build private clouds that allow for a much more dynamic provisioning of the infrastructure where the system does it. And really the business unit owner isn’t empowered to do it. In order to do that, all the pieces of the infrastructure – the compute, the storage, and the network – must be able to be dynamically provisioned. And when we look at that the compute is happening through virtual orchestration systems and the hyper-visor. The storage is happening with the storage vendors. But the network is lagged behind, and that’s what SDN is really about, and that’s why people care about it. Because they want to have the agility associated with what they can get from building a cloud, but the network is holding them back. And SDN is the solution to that.

David Linthicum 03:22

So we’re building these trucks that are able to go faster and carry more and do more, and we have to invest in the highway.

Bob Muglia 03:29

Well yeah, you can say we have to invest in the highway or you can say we’ve got a couple of missing wheels perhaps, and we have to get those wheels fixed.

David Linthicum 03:36

We have to get the wheels fixed, absolutely. So how is the movement to virtualization and private clouds changing the requirements of the modern enterprise network?

Bob Muglia 03:44

Yeah, I think what it really does here is shift it to require a much more dynamic approach. If you look at the way that networks have historically been configured and managed, networks are built and the software around networks are built on a device-by-device basis. And largely managed, often by hand, configured independently and separately, and largely with a person at a keyboard issuing esoteric command script and things. And what needs to change is that that all has to become very dynamic, and that really means removing a significant part of the software from the box itself, putting it into the virtualized infrastructure – into the cloud infrastructure – and allow that software to really work closely with the orchestration system. That’s the fundamental shift, is pulling the software out of the box and making it an extension of the cloud orchestration system.

David Linthicum 04:39

So in other words, we’re adapting our network so we’re specifically accommodating the applications or what we’re doing with it. And that seems to be the change right now.

Bob Muglia 04:48

Yeah, when I was at Microsoft, I used to talk about this in the sense of application driven networking. And that was my perspective as a system vendor, a company that built applications for corporations, a company that built the infrastructure, that I knew the network was not responding to what the applications needed, and what we needed was the network to change in order to be drive by the apps. We now call that the industry has called that software defined networking which is a great thing, it’s good to have it acknowledged.

David Linthicum 05:20

So in other words, we have the applications to do specific things here and we have the network over here and in essence they were used by each other, but they weren’t–

Bob Muglia 05:28

They were disconnected.

David Linthicum 05:29

–meshed together, now we’re meshing them together.

Bob Muglia 05:30

Right, there’s a person or a set of people in between. And we see that in the way that organizations structure their infrastructure teams. They have a networking team with people in it that’s job is to run and manage the network separate from these other functions that have to be done. And while it’s always good to have people involved in figuring things out, in this case it really slowed things down and doesn’t provide the agility that’s required. It all has to be automated and it can be automated. It’s fairly straight forward things.

Bob Muglia 05:59

Now the thing that’s interesting is that when you move to a cloud infrastructure, it’s important that you have multiple applications that run now side-by-side each other in a totally virtualized environment and yet they need to be properly isolated from each other. In the past the way that people literally did this is they bought boxes, and they wheeled in a box, and stuck Ethernet cables in it, and they configured them, and they put a box in between the applications. They’d go to one box and they’d type in a CLI command and they’d configure it. They’d go to another box and they’d configure it. That doesn’t work in a cloud, it’s all virtualized. And those same functions, the same functions of isolation and the same capabilities of tunneling to connect different systems together across wide geographic areas, all of that needs to be present. But it has to be don virtually. And that’s what SDN does, I mean it takes those functions of networking and frees them from the box and allows them to operate as a part of the broader cloud infrastructure.

David Linthicum 07:01

And allows them to be dynamic as well, right?

Bob Muglia 07:02

That’s right. And that’s really the key thing, is the dynamic aspect. And ultimately we get, why are we doing this, because I heard this just a few minutes ago, because we’re seeking agility in our business. That’s the reason why, and all the driver’s of business are about increasing agility and increasing the effectiveness in the investments people make and this is really just an enabler for that.

David Linthicum 07:25

So what are you guys doing at Juniper to kind of address this issue – to move into SDN and provide this agile networking infrastructure?

Bob Muglia 07:30

I mean we’re moving like mad. I mean there’s a lot of things that we’re doing, first of all, we’re working across the industry to help educate people on what SDN is all about. Because frankly one of the hardest has been that people don’t understand it. And when we looked last year and were really trying to understand exactly our strategy in this it was clear that people were all over the map in terms of what SDN is about. We’ve tried to help educate people on this at the very high levels of what needs to be achieved, and so that’s the first thing.

Bob Muglia 08:00

The second thing is that we are working to build key components of that infrastructure, we’re doing that as extensions to the OpenStack CloudStack environment, which is very well aligned with the customer, the target customers that Juniper sells to, which is service providers in the high-end enterprise. We’re also partnering with companies that deliver broad enterprise solutions. For example, partnering with VMWare to ensure that what we do from a systems perspective and a software perspective works well inside the VMWare environment. We’re building services, we’re taking the network services, which have up to now been captured, we always talk about this way, they’re trapped inside the boxes, and we’re freeing that software and allowing it to run within a set of distributed virtual machines. And to me that’s so much of what this is about.

Bob Muglia 08:55

It was stunning to me when I came to Juniper what it really meant to be delivering and building embedded operating systems and embedded environments, which is what the industry has been doing for 20 years. And to say that it’s a quantum leap to go to cloud style development is an understatement. So that’s what we’re doing, we’re using the cloud to enable networking to be a part of the cloud. And we’re doing that with the services and the software that we’re building.

David Linthicum 09:22

So you get SDN. Juniper gets SDN, right? Enterprises don’t typically get SDN, even the network folks we just discussed that. What would your advice be, step one, two and three, in how to move them from their existing state into a state is more cloud aware, cloud prepared, application aware, network in using SDN technology?

Bob Muglia 09:39

Well I think the first thing is look at the way they’re managing their physical infrastructure today. And most enterprises are still in the mode of having network specialist manage devices on a box-by-box basis which does not scale, is highly troublesome. Tons of errors get introduced that way and a lot of problems get created. So moving to a coherent management solution is I think the first thing I would recommend people do. And Juniper offers that for our products in the data center, other vendors do as well. I think everyone should build a centralized management system and use that as a part of managing their overall network. That to me is a step towards SDN, it’s an important step, just the first one.

Bob Muglia 10:19

The second thing I would say is what’s the business problem you’re really trying to solve and if what you want to do, like most enterprises do, is to transition their virtualized infrastructure to a private cloud infrastructure, I would say choose your orchestration system.

David Linthicum 10:33

Aren’t they the same, private clouds and virtualization the same?

Bob Muglia 10:35

No, I don’t think so, I think there’s a clear transition here. I think there’s a progression here. I think the difference between a virtualized infrastructure and a private cloud is that, if I’m running a virtualized infrastructure if a business unit owner wants to create an application, he sends his IT guy an email message saying, Hey could you deploy a set of virtual machines for me, provision a set of storage, a set of database services, and the network capabilities. He sends them an email.

David Linthicum 11:05

And he could provision that stuff right away?

Bob Muglia 11:06

And then two days later, I mean two days later, the IT guy gets around to it, he provisions it, it’s good, it’s two days. It’s better than six weeks, but in a private cloud infrastructure, what happens is that business unit owner has a set of resources that are available to him, he goes to a portal and in that portal he says, “I need these resources,” and boom, 15 minutes later they’re all provisioned.

David Linthicum 11:24


Bob Muglia 11:25

It’s all self-provisioned, it’s all managed. The difference also is that in a virtualized infrastructure, the IT owner is the one that is placing the resources in specific places. They’re saying, Hey I have enough capacity on this server, I have enough capacity in this database. In a private cloud, the system does all that for you. And that transition from having a person in the middle of that to having the infrastructure do it is where the agility and the dynamic capabilities of the network are there. So to answer the question you asked me a second ago, what was the first decision to make – the first decision I’d say is what is the orchestration system that I want to use as I build my private cloud? And really there’s kind of four choices in the industry, there’s VMWare and vCloud Director. There’s Microsoft System Center, there’s OpenStack and there’s CloudStack. There’s a few other’s that are out there, but those are the sort of major ones.

David Linthicum 12:19


Bob Muglia 12:20

Eucalyptus, there’s a few others that are out there. But go through the choice of the orchestration system, and then from that I think it leads you to a choice. I mean that has a direct relationship to the hyper-visor you’re using. It also has a correlation to the underlying storage, and the underlying network services that you want to have. And so VMWare is obviously building with their Nicira acquisition they’re obviously building those capabilities into what they’re doing. You see a number of solutions for OpenStack CloudStack, like our Contrail solutions. But start with the business problem, choose the orchestration system, and then find the set of infrastructures that satisfy it.

David Linthicum 12:58

So is the primary value of SDN the ability for the network to adapt to the changes that are made to the software stack and the way we’re consuming software – private cloud, public clouds, those sorts of things – or is it performance, is it manageability or is it all of the above?

Bob Muglia 13:11

It’s all of the above really. It’s making the network dynamic so it can perform properly and respond to the needs of the applications as defined and specified through the orchestration system. The orchestration system really plays the pivotal role of connecting the needs of the application to the underlying network infrastructure.

David Linthicum 13:29

So typical interview question – job interview question – say in three years where do you see yourself at your company? Where are you going to be working? What kind of technology are you going to be working on?

Bob Muglia 13:37

I think what we’ll see is that we’ll be continuing on the path that SDN has launched us on a path towards software. It’s incredibly convenient for me that coming to Juniper– Juniper has been a systems company, a hardware company. It’s incredibly convenient for me that at the time that I joined, a software guy that’s focused on helping Juniper to become more of a software company, it’s incredibly helpful that the industry is talking about software. And software is the buzz of the networking industry. So what I see is a continued progression of that in helping Juniper and helping the industry to understand how to build and sell software. And let me tell you, the networking industry has not understood it. They don’t come from that place. The way these things have been built is from the chip up in some sense, the hardware out.

David Linthicum 14:26

Wasn’t this the whole hardware versus software thing? The networking guys were hardware guys.

Bob Muglia 14:29

The hardware guys.

David Linthicum 14:30

And there are software guys and the hardware guys hate the software guys.

Bob Muglia 14:33

We don’t hate each other, but there’s definitely a different mindset associated with building hardware and thinking of software as just a little bit of sugar coating that you need to make your hardware work properly, and having software being the fundamental of what’s solving the problem. It exist all the way from the way the systems are built, the way the software is designed and engineered, the kinds of solutions that can be built. But also it goes into the way the industry sells to customers. I mean there has been no standard licensing and pricing model in the networking industry to sell software. It’s all over the map. And one of the things we’re doing at Juniper, as I said, we’re helping to educate the industry on what SDN is about, but we’re also a set of software guys here inside this systems company. We’re also focusing on helping to drive the industry forward and become much more of a software focused industry. Adopting licensing practices that have been used in enterprise for frankly decades, but then applying them to the network in 2013.

David Linthicum 15:35

So in other words, you become more of a software company going forward, your competitors become more of a software company going forward, so is hardware the differentiator or is software the differentiator, and do you see companies separating out just working on the software and other companies just working on the hardware? How do we evolve?

Bob Muglia 15:50

I think that software will become much more– it turns out that when we sell these systems software is a significant component of it and has always been. And so I think software grows in importance over time and it becomes separated from the hardware and there’s a business associated with selling software separate from hardware, which largely doesn’t exist in the networking space today. But I also do believe that hardware continues to matter. It turns out that an Intel chip is an incredible general purpose computing device, but when it comes to special purpose operations on packets, Silicon can do it 20 times, 50 time, 100 times faster and at much lower power. So we’re going to continue to see a need for special purpose hardware architectures as well. It all doesn’t just go into x86s. But right now the software and hardware are monged together and that gets kind of separated.

David Linthicum 16:42

So cloud aware networks in terms of this SDN as we move into the public cloud and we become kind of traffic cops for moving information in and between the public cloud and the people who are consuming it within the organization, how does that evolve? Do we become more cloud aware, such as OpenFlow?

Bob Muglia 16:57

Well, I think that– let’s separate OpenFlow out, because really OpenFlow is a protocol, and that’s the way that you should think about it. We support 270 different protocols, this is the 271st. It’s a nice protocol in some ways, and a not so nice protocol in others, but it’s nothing more than a protocol. In terms of the cloud aware networks, the thing that I would say is connecting these systems together is an incredibly important aspect. It’s very hard to do today, it’s very manual to do today. Everybody talks about hybrid clouds, and yet the process of creating them is typically, if they exist and they don’t exist in most companies, but if they exist, it’s typically very manual. And what we’ll see is that the next step of evolution of SDN once it really conquers the data center is going to be connecting data centers together and enabling people to build these much more flexible virtual clouds.

David Linthicum 17:52

Looking forward to it. I want to thank my guest Bob, and I’d like to thank you very much for attending, for listening to us rant for the last 20 minutes or so, and we’ll talk to you later.

Bob Muglia 18:01

Great, thanks David.


David Linthicum 18:03

Thanks a lot.