Juniper OpenLab Brings Network Innovation to NJ, No Strings Attached


Juniper Networks, the Silicon Valley firm whose expertise is in software-defined networking (SDN), launched OpenLab: The Junos Center for Innovation, on June 19, 2012, in Bridgewater.

The event was remarkable because no incentives from N.J. were provided to bring the networking laboratory here.

“We’re not helping this company. We haven’t offered them any incentives; we haven’t made any phone calls,” Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said at the opening ceremony. “It’s all about creating an environment in N.J. for innovation,” she added.

“This is a story about collaboration between private companies, entrepreneurs and institutes of higher education,” which can happen here, she said, noting that it is also about creating the next “generation of jobs” for N.J.

According to Jerry Passione, OpenLab general manager, this is the first and only facility of its kind for Juniper, though the company is not ruling out opening other labs nationally or globally if this one proves successful. asked Passione why the company had chosen to establish the lab in N.J. The answer: N.J.’s place in technology history, the legacy of Bell Labs and the fact that many Juniper customers are in the state made this location ideal for OpenLab.

Central N.J. was chosen because of its importance in serving the large regional base of service providers like AT&T;, Verizon, Comcast and several global enterprises like NYSE Euronext, Bloomberg and others.

Furthermore, the location takes advantage of a large talent pool of potential hires, which Juniper has been tapping to support the long-standing relationships the company has developed in the region since opening its Bridgewater office in 2002, a Juniper spokesperson added. 

“Many talented engineers began their careers at Bell Labs or were educated at New Jersey Institute of Technology or Rutgers,” Gerri Elliott, Juniper’s executive vice president and chief sales officer, added.

OpenLab is expected to provide additional N.J. jobs, although Juniper didn’t want to be quoted on how many it plans to add. The company did say it is committed to hiring interns from N.J. and had just finished its “onboarding process” for interns this summer.

We want to “reinforce the technology prowess of N.J.,” Vince Molinaro, Juniper’s senior VP and executive sponsor of OpenLab, added. “N.J. can be an awesome hotbed for network innovation, as it was in the past.”

The company has established two $5,000 Juniper Networks scholarships for recent high school graduates from Somerset, Hunterdon, Morris and Monmouth counties who intend to study engineering.

Calling OpenLab a first-of-its-kind in the telecommunications industry, Molinaro said the vision is to have all the networking ecosystem partners “take the time to collaborate on a frequent basis. … Our vision here is to make this a place where great ideas are born and turned into disruptive innovations that can change the world and the society we live in.”

Juniper envisions OpenLab as a place where customers, partners, software developers, investors and entrepreneurs come and test their applications on real-world networks.

Developers can imagine and build network applications that take advantage of the programmable platforms sitting on the hardware at the lab. OpenLab is also inviting industry associations and universities to the site.

Juniper expects the lab to help it gain early glimpses of networking ideas  worthy of funding through the Junos Innovation Fund. “I believe the OpenLab will become an incubation engine for N.J. and for Juniper Networks,” Molinaro said, and that it will attract “bright, talented people who want to make a difference.”

Touring OpenLab, got a good sense of what the concept can mean to developers. Rather than simulate scenarios, where multiple inaccuracies can be introduced, they can put up virtual networks and run them under differing loads to see where weaknesses might lie.

Customers can model their enterprise networks using the company’s cloud-based Junosphere software. The lab will be used by universities to run competitions among students, bringing in teams to design alternative ways to attack a particular networking problem. Juniper also plans to hold educational events at the facility.

In total OpenLab offers nearly 7,000 square feet of lab, collaboration and conference center space, including 18 racks for servers and networking equipment, private rooms for developers to demonstrate apps and live video feeds to encourage global teamwork.

Elliott pointed out that Juniper spends between 17 percent and 19 percent of its annual revenues on R & D. She added that SDN is all about “intelligence in the network; dynamically changing the behavior of the network; making it open, simple, secure and scalable. … This is going to require innovations in both the systems and the software … and what better place for it to happen than at OpenLab?”

The New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC) was involved in helping to bring OpenLab to N.J., Molinaro noted. NJTC’s Maxine Ballen made some remarks at the opening event. 

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