Last month, I authored a blog post that asked whether it was time for enterprises to move on from the branch router. In that blog, I framed the other options available to organizations that want to head down that route, but I didn’t really emphasize the benefits. Below are the main benefits enterprises realize if they’re ready to move beyond the branch router.

A Five9 survey shows customer service experience has overtaken price, product quality and all other factors as the top factor for customers when deciding with whom to do business.

The impact of digital transformation is far reaching and will impact almost every company in every industry vertical. Digital initiatives will also change the way customers interact with businesses. Companies that understand the new competitive dynamics and can adapt quickly, will thrive. Those that can’t will struggle to survive. 

Whether it’s customization, scale, or something else you’re after, sometimes public cloud doesn’t make sense.

Business and IT leaders are certainly feeling the pressure to help their organizations become digital. Agility needs to increase, but it’s no secret that legacy IT models simply can’t meet the needs of today’s fast-paced, constantly changing business environments. This is one reason why organizations have been embracing the cloud faster than ever.

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers remains busy with this mission to catch market transitions and change the world, this time with crickets and IoT.

Earlier this year, Cisco announced the man who turned it from a small router company into the world’s dominant network vendor, John Chambers, was exiting his post as executive chairman of the board and it turned the mothership fully over to Chuck Robbins. This raised the question: What has Chambers been up to? Retired?

At its Advanced Technology Fair, Cisco provided a glimpse of the near future by demonstrating how artificial intelligence can be used to improve meetings.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has come a long way in the past few years. What was once something only witnessed in science fiction has now become very real with AIs playing poker, telling us when to leave for the airport and letting us know what the weather will be like tomorrow. In the business world, AI has been used to improve cybersecurity and help contact center agents be smarter but it has yet to do is make workers more productive in any significant way but that will change soon.


Cisco survey shows workers are ready for AI-enabled meetings.

In the “Iron Man” series, business tycoon Tony Stark had a virtual assistant named JARVIS (acronym of Just A Rather Very Intelligent System). JARVIS would notify Tony of appointments with Pepper Potts, pull up schematics of a super-secret weapon Stark Industries is working on, or remind him of things he may have forgotten, like Pepper’s birthday. The effectiveness of JARVIS in keeping Tony on track makes one wonder if people today would be ready for a JARVIS-like virtual assistant in the workplace.

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.

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