Juniper Contrail Cloud spotted heading for junior telco networks

Gin palace lead architect explains plan to make NFV reign

Juniper Networks has enhanced its Contrail Cloud enhancements, in the hope it can put network function virtualization into the hands of more and smaller carrier.

As explained to The Reg by lead architect James Kelly, the basic problem telcos are having – especially if they're not Tier 1-class – is that they want network function virtualisation (NFV), but they “don't have the devops ninjas you have in places like AWS”.

Hence the managed services Juniper included in the Contrail Cloud announcement. Kelly said those services can be “duplicated and stamped out for any telco, rather than giving the telco a package they have to learn.

“We can stand it up, give them a foolproof 'day one' experience … and after you get the cluster up and running, there's a transfer of knowledge for people to take ownership and operations themselves.”

Telcos that want to can skip operating their systems, and sign Juniper to provide the advanced services.

The Register asked Kelly what remains on the to-do list for telco network automation. His answer is that for “the network as code” to reach its full potential, the industry has to go beyond orchestrating virtual network functions and applications, to include “orchestrating how we make changes in the network”.

Maintenance windows don't exist any more, but changes have to be made. Such issues are well understood in devops world: instead of a “big bang” change, an admin can test changes on a subset of microservices.

“You can do canary deployments, deploy a change in a small area, see what's happening when part of the traffic goes to that application before you push that out.”

The Internet's architecture is still too dependent on monolithic infrastructure, as anyone on a Level 3 US route discovered yesterday. A lie – or a glitched BGP route advertisement – can get halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on.

So the future Kelly wants to see is one in which infrastructure is designed for finer-grained pieces of software (and finer-grained control).

He wants the principles embodied in work like Google's “Site Reliability Engineering” book “translated into network reliability engineering – not just telcos, it's a major challenge for all customers”.

Contrail Cloud high points

As well as the services offerings, Monday's announcement covered:

  • OpenStack Platform and Ceph storage integration with Red Hat;
  • Built-in AppFormix orchestration, which Kelly said “goes a long way to helping the Day Two experience – keeping the clusters stable, keeping the applications stable, assuring the quality of experience.”; and
  • Pre-validated virtual network functions (VNFs).

As an example of pre-validated VNFs, Kelly pointed to a company called Affirmed Networks, which offers virtualised EPC (evolved packet core) technology for 4G and 5G networks, which he called a popular use-case among Telcos.

“Validation … means we've got it up and running, gone through all the testing drills on the Juniper side. We can run it, collect all the statistics for the EPC workloads … make sure it's passing traffic correctly through the various interfaces.” ®

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