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Juniper combines own OS with open compute hardware

4/12/2014 by Sharon Shahzad


Networking vendor Juniper Networks has announced a switch that runs proprietary Junos software on top of hardware developed by the Open Compute Project (OCP).

The OCX1100 is a 72-port disaggregated switch with a throughput of 1.44 Tbps, and the first to marry open source hardware designs with a carrier-class network operating system. And yet, it will also offer the option of deleting Junos, and running any third-party network OS instead.

The new switch is intended for large scale data centers that host public cloud services, able to support networks of hundreds of thousands of servers. It will appear on sale in the first quarter of 2015, and Juniper will offer discounts for buying in bulk.

Open Juniper
Open Compute started discussing an open network switch in May 2013. It was initially designed for Facebook’s data centers, and its own network operating system. The OCX1100 is aimed at customers who are building large data centers, but are not ready to invest resources into a custom switching solution, like Facebook does.

Juniper says its approach combines the affordability of white-box hardware with the reliability and familiarity of Junos – a Linux-based network operating system which has been forwarding data packets since 1998. And anyone who buys into the new ‘open’ switch will enjoy full support and maintenance like any other Juniper customer.

The OCX1100 supports Python scripts and popular automation tools such as Puppet and Chef. More unusually, it features OCP’s Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) that lets administrators load third-party network operating systems – something Juniper says guarantees freedom from vendor lock-in.

“With the OCX platform, customers will have the ability to remove Junos from the hardware and deploy another vendor’s operating system. Let me say that again: customers will have the ability to remove Junos and deploy another vendor’s operating system. This is an industry first from a leading networking vendor,” bragged Jonathan Davidson, SVP and GM for the Security, Switching and Solutions Business Unit at Juniper.

The hardware for the new switch (pictured below) is being built by Taiwan-based OEM Alpha Networks, and the design has been submitted to OCP for review – Juniper expects it to be approved by the time the OCX1100 becomes available for purchase.

This announcement could be seen as yet another proof that the company is not afraid to experiment with the rends that threaten its traditional business – last month, Juniper launched a virtualized version of its MX series routers, that replaces racks with code.

“To some not familiar with Juniper, news that we are embracing an open hardware design might sound counterintuitive in that anything “open” is not aligned with our strategy. On the contrary, Juniper has always embraced open architectures and open protocols,” said Davidson.

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