Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Making the Move to Juniper and Junos – Why it is Worth the Effort.

Is it hard to move to Juniper and Junos and is it worth the effort? It’s a question that we hear often. Many people have been trained on one vendors equipment and OS and used it for years. Then the time comes to upgrade those old switches or routers or maybe add to the WLAN or security infrastructure. It’s the opportunity to try something new. Maybe you’ve been thinking of making the move to Juniper, but you've been wondering how hard it is and if it is worth the effort. I’ve gathered comments and observations that I’d like to share

Why take a multi-vendor approach?
There are many reasons to look at a multi-vendor network. There might be some features that you need to support your applications. You might want to select the devices that give what you really want, instead of buying from the incumbent just because they are familiar. One of the biggest advantages can be to keep your network standards based and rely on proprietary protocols. This might save you down the road.
It is important to look at feature compatibility with your network design. Sometimes it might seem like a good idea to solve a problem with a new protocol but what are the longer term consequences? Could you get locked in to a path that doesn’t make sense later? Ask yourself if you really need a certain feature or if there is an alternative or a work around. Make sure that features are tested and don’t let a vendor test beta code on you.

Training your people to be network engineers and not just implementers is valuable advice. If you want to have the most flexibility to design your network you want to hire network engineers not people who are trained by the incumbent vendor only on their equipment. You want people who understand how network protocols like BGP or OSPF work, not just what commands to type in for a particular device. Once you know how the network works, it's simple to apply it to any vendor's gear and keep your network standards-based.

What about the learning curve of a new OS?
Some people have said that JUNOS has a steep learning curve if you are coming from another OS. Things can seem backwards and even strange. They also say that once you get over that, you will see that JUNOS is logical, and more predictable in how it works than the popular OS. The syntax is described as bash-like, so if you're familiar with UNIX environments, you will really like JUNOs after you try it out. You will love the XML look when it dumps the show conf as that will be familiar. Troubleshooting is another strength of Junos. There are many kinds of "show" and "debug" commands you can use. Support can be an issue but this is an area where Juniper gets a lot of credit and we have online communities on this forum, as well as different options for training, including online and classroom based.

Are there features that you are looking for?
There are a many reasons to make the move to Juniper when you are building your network. You might want to do gigabit ethernet to the desktop to support multi-media applications. You might be adding users and need ten gigabit bandwidth at the data center core and edge to support the added traffic. Maybe you’d like to take advantage of some capabilities on Juniper equipment that you have heard about.

There are many features that our customers have called out that lead them to choose Juniper.

  • Commit check, commit confirmed, and rollback are a few features that are unique to JUNOS that people call out as these features will ensure stability in your network as you reconfigure it to add functionality.
  • If you're considering doing a large rollout, you might like the idea of zero-touch provisioning for your switches. Juniper has a very cool presentation on doing this with EX switches.
  • You might want to do host authentication with dynamic VLAN assignment to simplify moves / adds / changes. 802.1x on Juniper devices has dynamic VLAN assignment and dynamic firewall rule setup.
  • You might want a unified client for VPN access and local host authentication. Juniper provides a client for desktop, laptop and mobile use and delivers unified management of VPN and local hosts with support across all platforms.
  • Juniper’s virtual chassis can reduce management overhead. With VC you can stack devices over any connection so the stack can be spread out. You could potentially reduce the number of access switches by a third.
  • There is the JUNOS SDK that gives you the capability to add functionality to devices and take advantage of third party applications.
Feature richness on a Juniper device is something that we hear about often. These kinds of features are common across platforms as they all run Junos.

How do you get started?
Come up with a clear plan of what you want to accomplish. Go through your switch and router templates and document the features that you use. Look at your configuration management system and make sure that it can help you with the transition. Talk to other organizations and see if any of them has done a similar bakeoff and what their criteria was. Consider if you have the resources to do it yourself or do you need to shop for the reseller partner. Ask if your vendor consultants, or VAR, or SI look at your implementation and make recommendations. Come up with a plan to show your team and your management the value of making the change.

How can Juniper help?
There are a number of ways that Juniper can help you to make the move to becoming a customer and deploying our equipment in your network. Some of the things that we can do include loaning you equipment to test, providing a resource to help you do a proof of concept, giving you access to the online Junosphere test environment, provide training credits and access to our online classroom. What we can do will depend on your circumstances. It all starts by having a conversation with your account manager to figure out what is best for you. I think that you will find that it's worth the effort for many reasons.

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