Juniper’s Contrail Systems Acquisition Is SDN Play

By acquiring startup Contrail Systems, Juniper Networks has bought itself a stake in software-defined networking (SDN) game.

Bob Muglia, executive vice president of Juniper’s Software Solutions Division, announced the deal in a short blog posting: “We’ve entered into an agreement to acquire Contrail Systems, a Santa Clara, California-based software networking startup founded in early 2012, and we anticipate closing before the end of the year.”

With the acquisition, he added, Juniper strengthens its portfolio with new SDN technology. “As a strategic investor earlier this year, we recognized the inherent advantages of Contrail Systems’ architectural approach and we are excited to take this next step to acquire and combine Contrail Systems into our team.”

Software-defined networking, designed to allow pools of networking resources in much the same way systems can configure computing and storage resources, emerged as one of 2012’s key technologies. The SDN horse race kicked off in July when VMware purchased Nicira, followed by Cisco’s acquisition of vCider and Brocade absorbing Vyatta.

Even as companies rush into the space, some are warning about SDN’s unmet promises. “Pundits claim it will commoditize networking equipment and save customers millions of dollars,” John McHugh, chief marketing officer at Brocade, wrote in a blog post in early October. “It will squeeze all of the unused bandwidth out of existing networking infrastructure and deliver lightning-fast performance. It will allow the network to be completely programmed for optimum application performance, regardless of what application is running and what other applications might coexist on the network.”

The only thing greater today than the promise of SDN, he concluded, is “the promises of those who are pushing SDN.”

Meanwhile, Nicira CTO Martin Casado offered more of those promises to Network World, suggesting that his company hopes to roll out a vendor-neutral SDN controller capable of integrating directly with the hypervisor. It will come in two versions: one integrated to work in the VMware stack of vSphere, vCloud Director and the ESX hypervisor, and another to work with other hypervisors and cloud management platforms from Xen, KVM and OpenStack.

Can any of these SDN systems deliver? These IT vendors are making massive bets that they will.


Image: Senticus/