Juniper Networks today announced plans to integrate its radio access network (RAN) intelligent controller (RIC) with Intel’s FlexRAN platform for Open RAN development.
This joint initiative between two companies is part of Juniper’s continuing efforts to bring openness and innovation to a traditionally closed-off part of the network, providing a faster route-to-market for service providers and enterprises to deliver 5G, edge computing and AI. Juniper views open RAN as an opportunistic endeavor and claims it’s currently testing the RIC integration in labs and trials with some tier-one operators. Juniper’s RIC takes direction from the O-RAN Alliance and adheres to open interfaces and APIs, but the specialized features it adds on top are proprietary.
Juniper has made major investments to lead the shift to Open RAN, beginning with the exclusive IP licensing agreement with Netsia (a subsidiary of Turk Telekom Group), and continuing with significant involvement in the O-RAN Alliance. Juniper is heavily engaged in expanding integrations with key partners and is part of the innovation team building joint customer solutions in Intel’s 5G Lab.
Spending on Radio Access Networks (RAN) is a significant amount of service providers’ CapEx, primarily due to limited vendor choice and closed architectures which lead to lock-in. Juniper recognizes that the RAN is a domain that demands openness and best-of-breed innovation to ensure the best experience for network operators and their customers, and is determined to lead the industry toward that vision.
Juniper’s collaboration with Intel includes the following:
- Juniper RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) and Intel FlexRAN platform are pre-integrated and pre-validated to enhance usability of a full ORAN-compliant Intelligent RAN system
- Collaborative R&D work with Intel Labs for RIC platform-specific apps to improve customer experience, maximize ROI and drive rapid ORAN ecosystem innovation
- Joint customer testbeds with Intel to validate performance-improving implementation and speed of time-to-market
Juniper is an active member of the O-RAN Alliance, contributing to six working groups and serving as chair and co-chair of the slicing and use-case task groups, respectively. Juniper is also an editor of RIC specifications within the alliance.
“Juniper has always been committed to open infrastructures, which is why we are excited to support the work that Intel has undertaken with their FlexRAN ecosystem. By collaborating with Intel, we are able to deliver cloud-native routing, automation, intelligence and assurance solutions and services that are optimized for our customers’ needs, speeding time-to-market and enabling them to monetize faster.”
– Constantine Polychronopoulos, VP of 5G and Telco Cloud at Juniper Networks
“RIC is like the brain for open RAN, and we also call it essentially the operating system of the RAN,” said Jai Thattil, director of strategic technology marketing at Juniper Networks. Juniper intends to differentiate its RIC from others by pre-integrating and validating the technology so operators can adopt it as part of a more comprehensive offering combined with other services. “Juniper is kind of in a unique position, compared to a lot of other vendors” because of its experience in 5G transport, network cores, service management and orchestration, according to Thattil.
“The virtualization of the RAN continues to gain momentum across the industry as operators take advantage of cloud economics and the delivery of new services. This collaboration with Juniper and the validation of FlexRAN and RIC solutions will assist service providers to overcome integration challenges and accelerate time-to-market for future deployments.”
– Caroline Chan, VP Intel Corporation, GM of Network Business Incubator Division
O-RAN Alliance Threatened:
The O-RAN Alliance is in a crisis because of U.S. sanctions against Chinese vendors in the group has troubled Nokia and Ericsson. In particular, the recent addition to the American “entity list” of three Chinese members of the Alliance. Kindroid, a semiconductor company, Phytium, a supercomputing company, and Inspur, a compute server vendor, have been accused of working with the Chinese military, and have joined 260 other Chinese companies, including, Huawei, on the entity list.
A few days after Nokia decided to suspend its technical activity with the O-RAN Alliance, in fear of American punishment over its engagement at the forum with companies recently put on the American “entity list,” Ericsson expressed similar concerns.
It should not be a surprise that, given O-RAN Alliance’s legacy (born out of a merger of the American-led xRAN Forum and the Chinese-led C-RAN Alliance), there are a strong Chinese contingency. According to Strand Consult, by the end of 2020, 44 of the 200 odd Alliance members are companies from China. Also of concern is this post by Mr. Strand, What NTIA won’t tell the FCC about OpenRAN.
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“Ultimately cloud is not just a market segment. When people think cloud, they think AWS, Azure and Google. Certainly, these are companies that have built their entire businesses around cloud-service delivery models but I view cloud as a way of life for every customer across every vertical. CIOs of enterprises wake up in the morning and wonder how they are going to protect their companies from disruption that’s happening outside of their four walls and do so while they don’t really have unlimited budgets and most of their employees are stuck in just keeping the lights on. Up to 80, 90% of the IT of an enterprise company are just keeping status quo running. That’s not a recipe for success,” said Juniper CEO Rami Rahim.
Expansion into Cloud Majors is a priority as it’s seen as the growth driver of enterprise digitalization:
– Accelerated enterprise shift of workloads into public clouds
– Direct Cloud connectivity drives growth in MX edge routers
– Two-sided business opportunity: Cloud + Enterprise WAN
Growth driver of 400G core upgrades
– Comprehensive 400G fixed & modular platform portfolio
– Investment in custom, high-performance Triton silicon for 400Gb/sec
• >100 customers for 400Gb/sec WAN solutions
Speaking at the JP Morgan 49th Annual Global Technology, Media and Communications conference today, Rahim said that the company’s enterprise business has never been as strong as it is today and he attributes much of that strength to the company’s AI-driven enterprise strategy.
“AI-driven enterprise is not just a marketing slogan,” Rahim said. “There is technical substance. We have an AI engine that drives the solutions that we are offering customers today,” he added.
Much of the company’s AI-driven enterprise strategy is a result of its 2019 acquisition of Mist Systems, which had an AI-powered wireless platform that Juniper then used to enhance its own networking solutions.
“We’ve been taking share [from competitors] in the face of meaningful headwinds,” Rahim said. “I expect once those headwinds lessen as we emerge from Covid, we will see even more improved dynamics.”
Juniper said that it plans to extend that AI-driven focus to other areas of its business, such as SD-WAN. Juniper purchased 128 Technology last October for $450 million and is in the process of combining 128 Technology and Mist’s AI capabilities into its SD-WAN solution.
Rahim said that he believes Juniper’s IP routing and transport business will see the most opportunity because the move to 5G will mean more traffic from the radio access network (RAN) to the transport network and the cloud.
Security is also a potential area of growth from 5G investments. Rahim said that future 5G networks are going to be more prone to threats, and service providers will need to invest in more high-end security.
He also said that Juniper projects that its service provider business will grow close to 2% for the full year with the revenue increasing 17% year over year.
On the supply chain front, Juniper executives warned during the company’s first quarter earnings report last month that it could be negatively impacted by the ongoing semiconductor shortage. Those shortages are still a concern, the company said, noting that it will continue to need extended lead times for products through the rest of the year.