We use applications every day. Whether we realize it or not our productivity is built on tools that we use to accomplish tasks or interact with our world. If you don’t believe me, try using your mobile phone or laptop and not using an application. Even something that uses a browser-based OS like a Google Chromebook uses applications as a metaphor for productivity.
Applications are testy things, however. They like to create sessions between endpoints. They like consistency and reliability. They don’t like packets taking circuitous paths through the Internet or being fragmented in the cloud. Applications are the kinds of programs that actively fight against the way we build modern networks. We want packets to get to their destination as fast as possible. We want reliability to be measured in aggregate instead of on a per-link basis to prevent single failures from knocking us out of commission. How can we ensure that the world of application networking is consistent and compatible with the way we build the networks in the first place?
There are companies that have looked at these session-aware networks. One of them is 128 Technology. You may recall the name from previous presentations at Field Day events, including the Exclusive event they did in 2019. Since then, the company has been acquired by Juniper Networks and the timing couldn’t have been better.
Juniper is putting together a massive collection of technologies that will propel them into the coming years. I’ve written about how I think Juniper’s acquisition of Mist is preparing them to take on the network edge. What was missing from that piece was a robust SD-WAN play. Juniper had been talking about using Contrail as their SD-WAN solution, but I have always felt it was a bit lacking. With the acquisition of 128 Technology and the integration of their solution into the portfolio, the real edge now starts to emerge.
Take a look at this video from Networking Field Day to get a sense of what I’m talking about:
The Session Smart platform, which is what 128 Technology SD-WAN is being transformed into, is a great solution for companies that need to focus on edge connectivity without the extra pieces that come along with modern SD-WAN solutions. Session Smart is focused on applications and ensuring their connectivity in a secure manner. There’s no trickery of IPSec tunneling everywhere or complex architecture to maintain. It’s all done easily without tunnels, which was one of the big selling points of 128 Technology back when they were independent. The focus on the application side of things ensures that the atomic unit of work is always the program the user is interacting with, not the packets of data being sent out of the router interfaces.
You might already be saying to yourself that one of the advantages of SD-WAN is the intelligence that is offered to help accelerate applications. You would definitely be right with that. However, that intelligence is built on the traditional networking structure and designed to help replicate the performance that Session Smart enjoys already. Fear not, though, because Juniper has an ace up their sleeve. It’s the integration piece that gives this solution a more robust place in the lineup.
By taking the 128 Technology tunnel-less SD-WAN architecture and integrating it with Mist AI and application awareness, Juniper is building something that transcends basic application acceleration. Mist AI is being integrated into everything that Juniper does. That means it’s learning constantly from data points across the network. It knows how users work. It knows what they access and when they want it. And that means that Mist is building application awareness that is always up-to-date with the usage patterns of the network.
By putting this data together with an edge solution that can accelerate and secure communications to providers of those applications, you can provision your network to work in ways that seem almost prescient at times. Gone are the days when uptake of a new application led to delays in optimizing the network for use. Instead, Mist will empower the network to optimize usage patterns at the edge where the users live and the edge where the data heads out to the application. Session Smart routing ensures it gets there safely and quickly and comes back where it needs to go.
Bringing It All Together
I’m thrilled that Juniper has decided to focus on the campus and edge network again. Despite the best efforts of investors to force them into a position that would have destroyed the company, Juniper has outlasted them and put together a great team of people that recognize that the way networks operate today is different from the way they’re built. By combining the depth of Mist AI with the ease-of-use and security afforded by 128 Technology, Juniper Session Smart networking is poised to take on traditional SD-WAN and win in a great number of cases where adaptive changing needs dominate the traffic flow and intelligence rules the day.
For more information on Juniper and their Session Smart platform, make sure to check out their page at http://Juniper.net