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AI World Conference & Expo · Boston, MA · December 11-13, 2017

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Last week at the OpenStack Summit in Sydney, Australia, networking vendor Juniper announced a number of new capabilities to its Contrail Cloud platform to help telcos realize the benefits of migrating to a cloud architecture faster.  Network service providers are under tremendous pressure to keep up with cloud providers requiring them to modernize their environments.  However, many of the technologies they need today, such as Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), are either immature, do not interoperate with other vendors or require new skills to deploy.

At the event, Juniper announced a number of updates to Contrail Cloud as well as a reference architecture and professional services to help their telco customers overcome these obstacles.  When Juniper acquired Contrail about five years ago, one of its strengths was that it’s an open product and Juniper kept it that way.

For those not familiar with Contrail Cloud, it’s a cloud platform designed for service providers to run NFV services on instead of having to deploy dedicated appliances like firewalls, routers and VPN concentrators. The product also allows for service chaining so different network services can take different paths through the network.  For example, traffic coming in from unsecured locations may need to pass through an IPS, firewall and router where traffic emanating from a secure location might only need to be sent to the router.  Historically all traffic would have to pass through all devices and now telco can create multiple service chains. This can greatly improve performance, security and provisioning times for businesses that use the services of that particular telco.

There were four elements to the Juniper announcement:

  • AppFormix Integration. Juniper acquired NFV service assurance vendor AppFormix in 2016. The product helps Juniper customers understand how the NFV based services are performing so they can be tuned and tweaked.  The problem was that the data would have to be exported out of Contrail and imported into AppFormix slowing down the process of understanding what the data means.  Now the product is part of Contrail Cloud and the integrated product can collect data in real time and use machine learning to discover new insights faster.  The information can then be used to fine tune the services.  Long term this should be fully automated but I expect telcos to take a crawl-walk-run approach where they’ll first use the data to inform them of what changes to make and then automate down the line when a comfort level is reached.
  • Increased collaboration with Red Hat. Juniper has had a relationship with Red Hat for years but has expanded it. Cloud Contrail is now integrated with Red Hat’s highly scalable OpenStack infrastructure as a service (IaaS) solution and the open, massively scalable Ceph storage product.  The Red Hat – Contrail integration eliminates many of the integration and interoperability problems that arise when products from two vendors are brought together.  Telcos need to move into cloud solutions faster and this can shorten deployment times by months.
  • Pre-Validated Virtualized Network Functions. Appliances may have been resource inefficient but they were straightforward to deploy.  The vendor would ensure that the hardware and software on the appliance was finely tuned to the needs of the function.  As things have gotten more open and virtualized, resource efficiency has gone through the roof.  Also, service providers are free to use a variety of hardware solutions, including white box which should lead to lower cost services available faster.  The problem is the complexity in getting things to work together.  Juniper now offers a pre-validated version of Contrail Cloud with a vetted hardware and software compatibility list.  Juniper includes validated versions that work with its own vSRX virtual firewall and Affirmed Networks Mobile Content Cloud virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) with more third party solutions on the roadmap.  The joint offering with Affirmed will be of particular value to mobile operators that are looking to move to a distributed cloud architecture.
  • Contrail Cloud Managed Service Offering. For telcos that do not have the skills or do not want to run cloud platform, Juniper is now offering an end to end managed service where it will build and operate the cloud infrastructure on behalf of its customer. This includes 24×7 solution support and high touch professional services designed to ensure that the customers that adopt Contrail Cloud are getting full value out of the product.

Businesses of all sizes rely on their telcos to provide the network and mobile services required to let them compete effectively.  Telcos must now embrace cloud architectures so they can roll out new services faster, with greater security and at lower prices while maintaining or increasing their level of profitability.  Juniper’s Contrail Cloud offerings takes much of the complexity out of the equation ensuring that teclos can meet the increasing demands of their business customers.

Its Business Journeys service can help organizations make the leap to digital.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a group of IT leaders on the topic of digital transformation. One of the questions I received was one I often get: How does one know where to start? It’s certainly a fair question.

Conceptually, it’s easy to understand why a business must become a digital one. However, it’s unlikely that companies have the right resources or staff to go from zero to Amazon overnight. My advice is always to be much more methodical about it, applying digital technologies in a series of small “chip shots” instead of a big, scary moon shot. I also recommend finding the processes with the most human or technical latency in them, as this is where digital transformation will have the biggest impact.

The Cisco-Google hybrid cloud solution can help businesses connect on-premises data centers to Google Cloud Platform.

There should be no question that for most organizations, hybrid clouds are the way of the future. My research shows that over 80 percent of organizations either use or plant to use a hybrid cloud strategy, so it’s coming and coming fast.

However, the path to hybrid clouds won’t be the same for all companies. Some will be aggressive and migrate to a cloud-native strategy today. Others will be more conservative and will “lift and shift” a few applications at a time before rewriting them. There’s no right answer when it comes to creating a hybrid cloud world; the key is to get there.

Device Layer provides the health status of network devices, enabling network operations teams to deliver better application and service performance.

Understanding user experience is becoming critically important to the success of all companies. I’ve interviewed dozens of business leaders on their digital transformation initiatives, and I can sort them into two larger buckets: increasing workforce productivity and improving customer experience.

Those may seem somewhat unrelated, other than they used digital technologies, but there is another point of commonality and it’s that applications play a key role.

BroadSoft’s good for Cisco, and Cisco’s good for BroadSoft — which means the deal is likely good for customers.

As mentioned elsewhere on No Jitter this morning, BroadSoft’s annual Connections event started off with a bang when it was announced that Cisco was acquiring the company for about $1.9 billion, making it one of Cisco’s biggest acquisitions to date, alongside its Sourcefire acquisition in 2013 and AppDynamics acquisition earlier this year. I talked with a number of financial analysts about this deal and one point many agree on is that the price seemed relatively low given BroadSoft’s current revenue ($380 million in 2017, $431 million in 2018), growth expectations (12%), and profitability (76% gross margin; 15% operating margin).

Network engineers can use AppDynamics to quickly diagnose the cause of poor application performance. And if the network is the problem, use the tool to resolve it faster.

Earlier this year, Cisco surprised many industry watchers when it forked out a cool $3.7 billion to acquire AppDynamics, which was about 2x the valuation it had going into its IPO. Most people know Cisco as the de facto standard and market leader in networking. AppDynamics lives higher up the stack and provides a view into how applications are performing by collecting data from users, applications, databases and servers.

This acquisition adds real-time streaming view to application intelligence Cisco earlier gained with AppDynamics buy.

Cisco this week announced its intent to acquire Perspica, a machine learning vendor — the second of this sort of acquisition this year (not to mention its 200th overall).

Earlier this year Cisco dropped a hefty $3.7 billion to purchase AppDynamics, paying a significant premium over the application performance vendor’s pending IPO price. AppD, as it’s better known as, gave Cisco a view of user experience through the lens of applications. Prior to the acquisition, Cisco had to infer how apps were performing through data generated by its security, networking, and data center products. AppD gave Cisco badly needed application intelligence, arguably enabling it to deliver the first true end-to-end monitoring and analytics platform.



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