Three years of MX

Somewhere in 2012, I started working for an ISP that offers datacenter, connectivity, cloud and telecom services. I started out as the sole network engineer in the engineering department. At that time, the company already had a long standing relationship with Juniper. Juniper was, and still is, the vendor that supplies most of the networking equipment.

As for myself, I had never worked with any Juniper equipment before. Taking on this job meant working with the MX routers on a daily basis. For this reason, I had to learn Junos and I had to understand the platform itself. Since I already knew a bit about BGP and MPLS, I skipped most of the entry level stuff and started studying the ‘JNCIS-SP study guide – part 3’, a book that was developed for the JMV course. To get acquainted with the platform itself, I read the ‘Juniper MX Series’. Both of these books were extremely helpful.

While I was working through these books, I labbed up most of the stuff I read and build a network that was similar to the live network I was working on. Since you can create 15 logical systems on a single MX router, this does not require a lot of hardware. And with the introduction of the vMX and vSRX, it has become even easier to play around with everything that Junos OS has to offer.

While getting to know the platform, I was also working with it at the same time. The MX is involved in a lot of different places in the network. The platform’s capabilities make it so that I have been able to position the MX routers just about anywhere. It’s being used as a core, peering and edge router. To me personally, there are several things about the MX that make working with it a great experience. I’d like to mention the four most important reasons here.

First and foremost is the stability of the MX.

Up until now, I have found that working with the MX is very predictable. I hardly see any unexpected behavior. The on-call is very quiet which means I get to focus on the fun stuff when I am at work. Planned works will almost always go as planned. The lack of weirdness during software upgrades or during activation of additional features and the fact that the MX is unfazed by the instability of other nodes is a real plus.

Second is the fact that the MX is a platform that Juniper continuously invests in.

A steady introduction of newer and better line-cards combined with the ever evolving Junos OS make it so that the MX can serve the network for quite some time. Integrating a new platform in an existing network is very expensive and a lot of work. And since it is hard to really tell what type of services will be required and what traffic flows will look like in three years, knowing that the platform evolves alongside with you is a good thing!

Third is the OS it is running.

Apart from the MX being able to perform all these functions in the network, Junos has even more to offer. I am currently using the (v)SRX for security and a combination of EX/QFX switches for port-density inside the datacenter. One OS for all these different parts make the investment of learning Junos well worth your while. Another point worth noting is that investments made in tooling or the automation side of things will require little extra effort to adapt for these additional platforms. And with the disaggregation of Junos, knowing Junos OS in the future can become even more valuable.

Fourth is the featurific-ness of the MX.

Of course you buy or choose a router to fulfill certain business needs. For me, the MX really shines on the edges. Using an MX to interconnect different services opens up a whole plethora of options. Not only are there a lot of options available, running them at the same time does not really bother the MX. On one box, you can create MPLS VPNs, configure EVPNs and VPLSs, add local bridge-domains, configure ‘regular’ Internet feeds and engage in peering activities. With the MX, you can cater to all sorts of different networking needs your own business or your customers’ business present you with. That a single platform can perform all these tasks is a really great feat.

All in all, the sum of all these advantages that the MX brings simply make networking a lot of fun. I have had a blast the last three years and I continue to do so to date. It is very rewarding to be designing and integrating new solutions using the MX.