Juniper Puts a Virtual Spin on MobileNext
Juniper Networks Inc. hasn't said much lately about MobileNext, its Evolved Packet Core (EPC) for 4G networks, but the product is going to get an update at Mobile World Congress next week.
MobileNext consists of two pieces: software on an MX 3D router, and a separate control-plane appliance called the MobileNext Control Gateway. The gateway is actually developed by Hitachi Ltd. and sold by Juniper. It uses blades populated by Juniper ASICs.
What's being announced Thursday, and shown at MWC, is a virtual form of Hitachi's gateway -- software written by Hitachi to run on x86 blades on the Junos V App Engine.
So, it moves the control plane -- the Serving GPRS Support Node (SGSN) for 2G/3G or the Mobile Management Entity (MME) for 4G LTE -- into virtual form on cheaper hardware.
It ties in with the Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) effort being pushed by some carriers. (See Carriers Peer Into Virtual World.)
Of the five relatively new product lines that Juniper is banking on, MobileNext has been the most maligned. Evidence of customer wins has been scarce, and there's long been a sense among analysts that Juniper fell off the pace in mobile networking when Cisco Systems Inc. acquired Starent, Juniper's presumptive EPC partner, in 2009.
MobileNext doesn't get mentioned at Juniper events the way QFabric and the T4000 core router do, but the technology is still "something that by no means we're backing away from," says Brad Brooks, Juniper's vice president of business strategy and marketing.
The star MobileNext customer so far is Elisa, a Finnish provider that has has put all of its 4G LTE customers onto the platform. (See Juniper Boasts Mobile Core Deal.)
Stepping toward SDN
Separately, Juniper is showing off an example of centralized management and configuration -- which the company considers to be the first step in building an SDN architecture. It's in a bit of software called the Services Activation Director, a centralized tool for automatically configuring Carrier Ethernet and MPLS channels from the mobile backhaul portion of the network to the service-provider edge. The idea with the Services Activation Director is to make it faster and simpler to bring up new customers on the mobile network and to bring dedicated MPLS channels to that customer, Brooks says. For more