BT berries Juniper's SDN kit in network architecture refresh

Meet Network Cloud – Brit telco's latest infrastructure play

BT will be using software-defined networking (SDN) tools from Juniper Networks to breathe new life into its ageing infrastructure and prepare it for the deluge of data expected when 5G goes mainstream.

The telco will deploy Juniper's Contrail Networking platform for SDN capabilities and fabric management; AppFormix monitoring software to analyse both physical and virtual environments; and the familiar high-density QFX series Ethernet switches.

BT wants to create a programmable, automated network that would help cut the cost and accelerate the introduction of new services.

To this end, it has designed the Network Cloud infrastructure initiative, aiming to create a single, cloud-based technology platform to satisfy its various lines of business.

The Network Cloud will serve as the backend for all of the company's services, from voice communications, to broadband, to TV, as well as its own internal applications.

"This move to a single cloud-driven network infrastructure will enable BT to offer a wider range of services, faster and more efficiently to customers in the UK and around the world," said Neil McRae, chief architect at BT.

The platform will be used to create new converged services bringing mobile, Wi-Fi and fixed network connectivity. Lest we forget, BT owns mobile network operator EE, which switched on 5g coverage in five cities last week, so the technology is very much on the agenda.

SDN is big business for Juniper: in April, the company reported that revenue from the Contrail family of software products increased nearly 40 per cent year-on-year. Juniper originally got into SDN with the acquisition of start-up Contrail Systems for $176m in 2012. The software has since become its flagship product.

Somewhat surprisingly, Juniper contributed the Contrail code to open source in 2013. Today, the project is known as Tungsten Fabric and sits at the core of LF Networking, a recently established networking arm of the Linux Foundation.

AppFormix is a product of another acquisition: the cloud optimisation service, originally developed for OpenStack and Kuberentes, was purchased by Juniper for an undisclosed amount in 2016.

BT is one of the largest telcos in the world, with operations in around 180 countries. Along with a full range of telecommunications services, it also offers private, managed and public cloud services, and runs 22 data centres.

"As a renowned global service provider, BT is a shining example of how to evolve networks to become more agile. By leveraging the 'beach-front property' it has in central offices around the globe, BT can optimize the business value that 5G's bandwidth and connectivity brings," said Bikash Koley, CTO at Juniper.

BT works closely with the networks firm's main competitor (and a much larger vendor) Cisco, especially on security products. The relationship between the two goes back 30 years and BT currently sells Cisco's SD-WAN tech and resells Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). ®

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