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Juniper buys enterprise SDN firm Contrail for $176m

Contrail, founded just this year, is working on a compiler for the virtualised network. The deal, which Juniper expects to close by the end of the year, comes just a fortnight after Cisco picked up another SDN firm, Cariden.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Juniper Networks is to buy the enterprise-focused software-defined networking firm Contrail Systems for $176m in cash and stock, the kit-maker has announced via a blog post and SEC filing.

The deal comes a mere two weeks after rival networking firm Cisco bought Cariden, which also operates in the burgeoning software-defined networking (SDN) market, for $141m. VMware, which has already been very active in virtualising the datacentre, also bought SDN pioneer Nicira earlier this year.

Contrail was only founded this year. It is probably worth noting that Contrail's chief technology officer, multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) specialist Kireeti Kompella, was at Juniper before defecting in September.

SDN effectively involves the virtualisation of networking devices, making the network easier and theoretically cheaper to manage. Using interfaces such as OpenFlow that are based on open standards, SDN supersedes much of the functionality of the firmware embedded in the routers and switches that both Juniper and Cisco make.

"With this acquisition, Juniper gains SDN technology that augments our portfolio of products and services," Juniper software chief Bob Muglia said in a post on Wednesday. "As a strategic investor earlier this year, we recognised the inherent advantages of Contrail Systems' architectural approach and we are excited to take this next step to acquire and combine Contrail Systems into our team."

Contrail has been operating in fairly stealthy fashion, but last month Kompella told Light Reading that the firm was working on a compiler for the software-defined network. The aim is for enterprises to be able to more-or-less just input their network topology wishes and leave it to the software to program the hardware.

Meanwhile, on Thursday the analyst firm Ovum released a report about the SDN market, saying the technology was on a winning streak.

"With SDN the focus of networking has moved from the feeds and speeds of the data plane to the intelligence inherent in the control plane and related network services," principal analyst David Krozier said. "Instead of crafting applications to operate within the constraints of the network, with SDN the network will dynamically adapt to provide the connectivity services that best serve the application."

However, Krozier added that it was "too early in the evolution of SDN to draw conclusions about which approach will win or the exact architecture of future networks as there is too much innovation yet to happen, and vendors and their customers have yet to reach a common agenda".

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