SDN can turn the network into a big data “curator,” claims Juniper


Credit: Albert Chau

Software-defined networking (SDN) will help application developers provide context for all the data their services generate and consume, according to Juniper Networks product management lead Jennifer Lin.

SDN involves the abstraction of the network’s brains, as it were, from its hardware. This is analogous in some ways to server virtualization, in that it makes it much easier to build smarter systems on top of commodity hardware. Juniper’s take on this sees the network as four layers, namely forwarding, control, services and management — in Juniper’s vision, everything but the forwarding layer should be centralized.

Lin, who joined Juniper through the company’s acquisition of SDN specialist Contrail Systems, said at GigaOM’s Structure:Data conference in New York on Wednesday that federating the control function and eliminating “manual error-prone processes” would help the big data because:

“We’re seeing a huge opportunity here to reposition the role of the network as a curator of big data and make sure that role is easily exposed through abstractions of the network. The role of the network is interesting because the network is the only thing that’s globally pervasive and … uniquely knows a lot of the contextual information that is required to drive insights back into the system.”

Lin argued that this “rich context” would enable new types of business models such as collaborative data exchanges, without anyone needing to worry about the technology architectures involved. “The role of the network is changing quite heavily and the pace of innovation for hyperconnected data is really astonishing,” she added.

Check out the rest of our Structure: Data 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:


Jeroen van Bemmel

Mike is not the only one who is confused. Why do you switch to defensive mode, quoting Juniper’s strategy (in very vague terms, adding to the confusion), while all he’s saying is that there is a need for more common language and concepts? Do you disagree?

Jeroen van Bemmel – Alcatel-Lucent

Michael Bushong (@mbushong)

[full disclosure: I work on the vendor side in the SDN space, and I was a long-time Juniper employee driving SDN at Juniper before it was called SDN]

I absolutely agree that there is a need to focus on abstractions. It is great that we are working our way out of the minute details of the underlying protocols. I wonder if the abstractions mentioned here are still a bit off though.

It makes perfect sense for networking companies to view the network as the center of the universe. And in many ways, because it provides connectivity across all of the infrastructure, it’s actually true. But when data resides across parts of a network (or worse yet, across multiple networks), the abstractions need to be more than just decoupling hardware and software. There needs to be a common data model that multiple vendors (not just networking) can use. I don’t see that work really happening here.

And I will give a shout out here to Tom Nolle, who would likely point out that Juniper continues to talk NFV while referring to SDN. The two are related, but they are different. We really need to get more clear in how we talk about things because it’s confusing as hell to customers, which hurts all of us on (on both the vendor and customer sides).

Ankur Singla

Definitely you are quite confused about Juniper strategy, surprising given that you were part of the company till recently. The strategy encompasses the entire spectrum of networking space – Enterprise Private Cloud, SP Access & Aggregation layer, SP Core, Public Cloud/SP VPC.

–Ankur Singla, Founder/CEO – Contrail Systems

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