When Juniper Networks announced plans to acquire Netrounds – the private supplier of programmable, software-based test and service assurance agents, my immediate reaction was why?
Why is Juniper venturing into the active assurance market where much larger stronger incumbents play such as Netscout, Spirent, and EXFO? Why would Netrounds sell out now, just as the company appears to be making forward progress in the market where disruptive technologies can utilize its technology?
The cloudification of the network and 5G disruption should be big opportunities for Netrounds and the company had wins to prove it. Was the offer too sweet to pass up and get paid forward for the 13-year investment? Is this purely a SD-WAN play as noted in the press release? (If so, I think it leaves money on the table.)
Why would Netrounds hitch its wagon to Juniper and not Cisco where it already has strong ties and joint partnerships? Going forward, will Juniper be able to successfully exploit the Netrounds people and assets? Juniper does not have a successful track record of acquisitions compared to its biggest competitor Cisco.
Finally, is Juniper making a big bet on the automated closed-loop management – something it has largely left to partners? Will Juniper try to build out a model like Ciena Blue Planet? What does it mean for niche assurance suppliers trying to win business in CLA like Mycom-OSI, EXFO, Infovista, and others?
Automation Gains Intent
The appeal of automation is high today in our industry because most implementers realize that new services like 5G, SD-WAN, and edge computing are almost impossible to support with traditional tools. Too many configuration parameters, dynamic workloads, and continuous challenges in optimizing the services. Yet even automation itself creates challenges. Where do you start, how do you successfully implement it? When does it make sense to deploy even semi-automation? A term that has gained traction in our industry over the past year is intent-based networking.
A simple way to view intent is “define the desired outcome”. An example is “define the capacity or latency required.” The benefit of intent is that the operator defines the SLA, without having to define how to achieve it. This implies that the orchestration logic has the ability to find and implement a solution to the “SLA”. It also implies that you are actively testing the performance of the network, service, and applications.
Zero-touch testing applies to the service and applications. New services are elastic, meaning that they scale to balance demand with available resources, and increasingly most services are becoming on-demand.
Old methods and tools were designed for fixed network and compute capacity. As a result, service assurance tools used in the past fail to satisfy the new business requirements of dynamic, cloud-based distributed workloads.
The FCAPS model was designed for workflow tasks that addressed each function in the service lifecycle. In many cases the systems operated in a silo using their own data models, polling engines, resulting in manually intensive “hand-off” from the planning teams to the service activation teams to the operation teams. There is a lot of friction in this process. This old construct will not work in the telecom services of the future!
Evolving Service Assurance
Netrounds bring to Juniper some more arrows in the quiver.
- Netrounds Virtual Test Agent (VTA) deployments offer close approximation to live services and is far superior to network element tools and poll-based performance monitoring offered by traditional ISVs.
- It is useful to confirm service activation and validation – much cheaper than hardware based appliances.
- Test controller should instrument against live service and application. This can all be pre-built into the model with KPI values.
- The model-driven approach must be aligned to fulfillment and assurance functions. This implies the same VNF descriptor and model for both workflows.
Juniper’s interest in Netrounds may also be an attempt to build on the success of Mist in enabling AI driven automation for enterprise networks. Juniper has taken Mist from a WiFi only solution and expanded to enterprise WAN and LAN. In Juniper’s recent analyst event, it was clear that Mist was an important part of their growing enterprise market. At the same time its CSP market is declining. Netrounds may be just give a strong telco focused assurance foundation on which Mist like AI driven could be adopted and succeed.
For more on my views of how the market is evolving for active assurance check out the webinar I co-hosted with Cyril (free registration required). It provides some deeper insight into the Netrounds technology and its importance to our industry. The business outcome is to avoid disruptions in service launch, deliver better SLA guarantees, and avoid unnecessary truck rolls. Netrounds’ traffic-generating test agents allow OSS and NFV orchestrators to remotely test, monitor, and assure their network service KPIs and SLAs.