Juniper Puts Networking Lab in the Cloud

How do you test out new networking models and designs without physical hardware?

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Oct 4, 2011
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Testing out network design and deployments has long been an effort that has required physical hardware in a bricks and mortar lab. That's now about to change, thanks to a new Linux-powered cloud testing environment called Junosphere, being deployed by Juniper Networks.

Junosphere is an on-demand cloud service for network testing and modeling.

"Junosphere is an augmentation for what you'd do in a physical lab," Judy Beningson, vice president and general manager, Virtual Junos Business Unit at Juniper, told InternetNews.com. "This is a way to get a bigger lab on demand."

Beningson noted that there are some types of testing that you can do only with physical equipment. One such item is performance testing, due to the fact that proper analysis relies on the specialized ASICS and silicon that physical hardware uses to deliver its real-world performance.

That said, Beningson said that a lot of modern networking testing is about control plane testing.

"If I change something about how my traffic is being forwarded, does it behave the way I want?" Beningson said. "If I put a new firewall policy in place will it do what I expect it to do? That's all do-able in a software only lab."

The Junosphere network testing cloud can also be used for IPv6 testing, which is a key use-case.

The Junosphere service is delivered from a Juniper owned and operated data center that uses Juniper's networking gear. There is a piece of software called Virtual Machine Manager that builds the virtual machine environment for testing networking gear. There are multiple virtual machine images that Junosphere provides including a Junos image for running a router or firewall. There is a Junos Space image for network management and there is a generic Linux image powered by CentOS. Beningson explained that on the bare metal servers, Juniper is running CentOS Linux and the hypervisor layer is KVM.

"You can really customize the network you want to build, in the cloud," Beningson said.

As to why Juniper decided to build their own cloud environment for testing as opposed to simply using Amazon EC2, Beningson said there were a number of reasons.

"We're not using the virtual machine to just put more workload on a CPU, we're actually creating a network node and then we're networking together those nodes," Beningson said. "Then we're running datapath traffic over that network."

Pricing for Junosphere is $50 a day, which provides 10 virtual machines of capacity.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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