Juniper Networks is looking to increase its focus on OpenContrail, noting the community around the open source software-defined networking (SDN) controller has been overshadowed by its commercial Contrail platform.
Randy Bias, vice president of technology and strategy for cloud software at Juniper, said the company has not done a good enough job in promoting the open source platform. This has led to some confusion around the differences between the two products.
“In the past we focused on the commercial version, and the open version got lost without the right focus,” Bias said. “We have an ask in at Juniper to add dedicated headcount to the community.”
Bias said the relationship between the commercial and open source business was “muddied” both within Juniper as well as the perceived relationship outside of the company.
“People couldn’t figure out which was which,” Bias said. “I have been working on getting Juniper to realize they are separate entities, and we need them to be even more separate. Having a real clean separation between open and commercial allows us to be more focused on the open pieces.”
Juniper earlier this year reorganized its corporate structure in an attempt to better align strategy with execution. The move included executive changes under CEO Rami Rahim.
Bias said he expects a much clearer relationship with the community will be in place by next year.
Despite the muddied perception, Bias said the lack of community support could be a benefit for OpenContrail in the long run. Citing his past work in OpenStack, Bias said some open source communities had lost their way early on as too many companies looked to bring their ideas to the table.
“We just didn’t get the community set up as we wanted to,” Bias explained. “Maybe it was an oversight by us, but I also think now that maybe it was fortuitous.”
Bias joined Juniper last October, tasked with leading the company’s cloud strategy. Bias is considered an outspoken and opinionated cloud expert, having coined the phrase “pets versus cattle,” which is frequently used to explain how data center servers should be treated like anonymous cattle, not like pampered, individual pets.
Bias also founded the OpenStack startup Cloudscaling years before the OpenStack Foundation was formed. He was elected as an inaugural director of the newly formed OpenStack Foundation in 2012, where he served until January 2016.
“Some of these communities have floundered a bit,” Bias said. “We have a more constrained environment as it’s been more of a Juniper-led effort. In some ways it’s been good. We’ve been able to build a culture and brand, and we think the momentum is real.”
Juniper launched OpenContrail in 2013, moving to open source Contrail in an effort to tap the growing market. The move was contrary to the company’s previous efforts in following the lead of Cisco by building proprietary, vertically integrated solutions.
Carriers had expressed some frustration with Contrail. Paul Carver, a principle member of the technical staff with AT&T, earlier this year said it was considering an SDN “nirvana stack” that did not include Contrail. AT&T’s integrated cloud (AIC) is based on the OpenStack framework and uses Contrail for its SDN.
Carver said AT&T originally chose Contrail because it offered a wider variety of features than some of the other SDN controllers AT&T initially explored. “We wanted to take advantage of more features; that led us to Contrail,” said Carver. “Service function chaining was an area that Contrail had fully open-sourced.”
However, Carver bemoaned the lack of community support behind the commercial product.
“The biggest challenge with Contrail is the lack of that community,” Carver said. “I personally have not given up yet to get more non-Juniper people working on it. But it’s been a real uphill battle. The key takeaway is: the communities are what’s most important to us.”
Bias concurred, noting the importance of building the right community balance is key for garnering customers. He hopes Juniper’s bolstered approach to OpenContrail will solve this issue. This includes current efforts to get OpenContrail adopted by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).
Bias said working groups were currently tackling the OpenContrail governance model, with others working on a transition for a technical governance model and infrastructure model from the community rather than from Juniper.
“We see a lot of positive community building in CNCF and want to take advantage of the model they have established,” Bias said.