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Infranet Becomes IPsphere

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
6/28/2005

The organization replacing the Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) Infranet Initiative Council officially gave itself a name today and, as expected, welcomed Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) into the fold.

The group's new name is the IPsphere Forum, and its mission is described as the "business of IP," indicating a goal of creating IP technologies that will lead to viable business plans for service providers (see Infranet Morphs Into IPsphere).

IPsphere succees the IIC, which was focusing on ways to make networks intelligent enough to provide quality of service and security automatically, depending on the application, and would keep those parameters set as traffic hopped from network to network.

The plan was for the IIC, which was started by Juniper but included other vendors and many notable carriers, to kick off ideas that would then be proposed to the appropriate standards groups (see Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps).

Sources say carriers -- in particular -- wanted Alcatel and Cisco to join the group, but neither was willing. Cisco, in particular, had repeatedly scoffed at the idea, noting that it wanted to carry on this work under the auspices of a standards body. Thus, the IIC decided to call it quits, with the new, yet unnamed group surfacing at Supercomm earlier this month (see Cisco Heckles Infranet Initiative, Infranet Seeks Image Change, and Cisco, Alcatel Join Infranet Successor).

Two other problems had blocked Alcatel and Cisco's participation, notes Tom Nolle principal consultant with CIMI Corp. and an IPsphere member himself. For one, Juniper had used "Infranet" in a product spiel, discussing its enterprise Infranet (see Juniper Intros Enterprise Infranet).

Then there was the fact that Juniper was footing the bill. "Juniper was still paying administrative costs, and that made some other vendors antsy about joining," Nolle says. The IPsphere Forum, by contrast, is being funded by its membership.

The new group will be attached to a standards body, and members are quick to say the new forum is not a renamed version of the IIC. But the people involved are pretty much the same; for example, the IPsphere board will be chaired by Kevin Dillon, who was Juniper's principal representative to the IIC.

Cisco gets to contribute at the top, though, as Monique Morrow, a prominent Cisco consulting engineer, will be IPsphere's vice chair.

Rounding out the IPsphere board are representatives from Alcatel, BT, France Telecom SA, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Red Zinc, Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), T-Com, Telenor ASA (Nasdaq: TELN), and Tellabs Inc.

The IPsphere Forum kicks off with 40 member companies, including 22 carriers, and it's gotten enough buzz to attract more big names. "We've got another 30 companies that want to get in," an IPsphere spokesman says.

Next, the forum has to decide which standards body to affiliate with. A request for proposal (RFP) has gone out to multiple groups, the spokesman says.

The forum also intends to pick up some of the IIC's work. For example, the IIC had completed an execution framework, and members have written software to run it. A showcase of the results will be coming later this year, Nolle says.

"This has actually proceeded with some breathtaking speed for a standards process, in part because the service providers have driven it," says Nolle. "The providers really wanted this done." — Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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