Optical/IP Networks

Has Juniper Gotta Sinatra?

Having secured its place in the network core and muscled its way onto the edge, Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) may have its eye on the next hot market, the multiservice edge.

Sources say the company is readying "Sinatra," the code name for a new router tailored to the multiservice requirements that are emerging as part of the converged IP network.

Juniper officials wouldn't confirm Sinatra's existence; in fact, they say the M series of routers suits the edge just fine. The edge has changed since the M series was first developed, though, and competing vendors are making acquisitions to suit the new requirements. The pressure might be on Juniper to boost its multiservice offerings.

Carriers envision a network that uses Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) to carry all traffic across one IP core. All incumbent equipment vendors are chasing this model, as detailed last year by Heavy Reading, Light Reading's independent research arm (see Incumbents Converge on Convergence).

The model includes an edge network that accepts a hodgepodge of Layer 2 traffic -- including ATM, Frame Relay, and Ethernet -- and massages it into IP/MPLS form for transport across the core. It's a far cry from the old days, when edge boxes were simply smaller versions of core boxes (see Edge-Router Evolution).

This multiservice edge is "an area carriers are going to be putting money in," says Kevin Mitchell, analyst with Infonetics Research Inc. The product lineup for the converged model remains in flux, however. "We know there'll be a big MPLS core router, but what's going to be the onramp to that?"

Good question. Neither of Juniper's platforms -- the home-grown M and T series, or the ERX edge routers acquired with Unisphere Networks (see Juniper Nabs Unisphere for $740M) -- was designed with the multiservice edge in mind, some experts point out.

"It's difficult, if not impossible, to create a router that can do both edge and core," says Geoff Bennett, Heavy Reading Chief Technologist. "Core boxes spend most of their time just forwarding packets as quick as they can, without worrying about classification, etc. But an edge box spends most of its time classifying traffic."

Juniper's ERX routers, on the other hand, are often referred to as edge routers, but they were designed specifically to handle the B-RAS function -- aggregating and routing broadband service connections.

Juniper has it's options. One would be to keep the ERX aimed at the B-RAS market but build a new edge router aimed at the multiservice requirements -- and that's where Sinatra could fit in.

Juniper, for its part, denies there's any need for a new routing product, saying the M series fits just fine in the multiservice edge.

"We've been optimizing the M series for the edge for the last four years," says Mike Capuano, Juniper's senior manager of portfolio marketing. "We have carriers who are deploying the M series at the edge and taking in ATM and Frame Relay."

Even so, Juniper officials might want more ammunition to fend off eager edge-routing rivals who are focusing on the multiservice angle. Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) recently acquired TiMetra Networks and Vivace Networks, respectively, to bolster product offerings at the edge. And yesterday, startup Laurel Networks Inc. hired a new CEO in hopes of boosting its sales presence with carriers. (See Alcatel & TiMetra Seal the Deal, Tellabs Snags Vivace for $135M, and Laurel Hires New CEO.)

Another possibility is that Sinatra could take the CoSine Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: COSN) path, providing IP-based features like per-user firewalls (see Edge-Router Evolution: Network-Based Services). Here again, however, Capuano says the M series can do the trick.

Juniper officials concede they have room for improvement, though. Without confirming or denying anything, Capuano says: "Customers are saying a good next step for us would be to have a larger-scale platform that supports increased amounts of signaling and increased amounts of traffic.

"They also say the M series does everything they want it to do."

Dean Martin could not be reached for comment.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

For more information about the multiservice edge, see these Light Reading reports: Recent Light Reading Webinars related to this story:

Sign In