Juniper Gives Static to IPTV Critics

Following up on promises to answer critics of its IPTV strategy, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) introduced further Ethernet enhancements to its E320 series yesterday.

The numbers aren't too shabby. The E320, taking up one third of a standard 7-foot rack, can now carry 192 Gigabit Ethernet connections or 12 10-Gbit/s Ethernet links, managing up to 128,000 sessions in total. (See Juniper Packs Ethernet.)

The idea is to beef up capacity to accommodate new services. That means piling more Ethernet density into a box, but it also means upping subscriber management numbers and sharpening quality of service (QOS). "These concerns are on service providers' minds. They impact how much revenue they can get for their services," says Gary Southwell, director of Juniper's IPTV efforts.

Critics have pestered Juniper about this all year. Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Redback Networks Inc. have enjoyed increasing success -- or increasing publicity, at least -- with Ethernet-heavy IPTV deployments, while Juniper has been perceived as an Ethernet laggard. After months of taking its blows, Juniper fired an opening salvo in June, announcing a handful of new Ether-centric linecards -- but not for the E-series -- and promising more Ethernet/IPTV news to come. (see Juniper Tunes Its Ethernet, IPTV Stories.)

Some analysts say Ethernet should be Juniper's primary battle -- as opposed to core routers, where Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is turning up the heat with its CRS-1 platform but still lags the installed base of Juniper's T640. (See What's Up With Cisco at KT? )

Yesterday's upgrades appear to push the E320's specs past the Cisco 10000 series and the Redback SmartEdge 800, which handle 61,500 and 48,000 subscribers, according to the respective vendors. Juniper also claims it's got better Ethernet density than either of those, so there.

But that's on the subscriber management side. The E320 could also be seen as competing against Alcatel's 7750 Service Router or Cisco's 7600 series -- boxes with a heritage more in IP routing than subscriber management. Juniper's still playing catchup against those systems' switching capacity, although "the gap is narrowing," says Mark Seery, an analyst with Ovum RHK Inc.

Alcatel's 7750 Service Router has a 400-Gbit/s switch fabric, compared with the E320's maximum 160 Gbit/s (listed as 320 Gbit/s when counting ingress and egress traffic simultaneously, as router companies tend to do). So, while the 7750 does support just 64,000 subscribers compared with the E320's 128,000, it can provide 6.25 Mbit/s per subscriber versus 1.25 Mbit/s for Juniper, Alcatel officials point out.

Comparing different vendors' systems remains a bit awkward, because the edge network requires both Ethernet density and subscriber management -- and not every system is good at both. "There are weaknesses and strengths on both sides. The market will work itself out over the next two to three years," Seery says.

Ultimately, Seery thinks Juniper will have to drop everything into one box that amalgamates the E-series and its classic M-series routers. This creation would incorporate features aimed at both consumer and business customers, while also sporting Ethernet density, subscriber management features, and IP routing.

"That's the future of where the market's going, so Juniper's got some important decisions to make," Seery says. But he thinks the E320 boosters are a good step: "For the moment, this is an important upgrade that helps them compete against Redback."

Separately, the E320's upgrade might have a connection to the latest rumblings around Redback.

Analyst Simon Leopold of Morgan Keegan & Company Inc. speculates that the E320's new features might help cement Juniper's position as the edge-router incumbent at Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). Earlier this week, Redback shares fell as some analysts said the firm might not get an anticipated win with the carrier. (See Redback Falls on Verizon Hopes and Redback Gets a Break.)

"We think Juniper pitched this functionality to Verizon but failed to deliver, which may have contributed to Juniper’s revenue recognition delays from the carrier," Leopold wrote in a note issued this morning. He's referring to a chunk of revenue, between $25 million and $35 million, that Juniper has had to defer due to an undisclosed technicality -- even though the equipment in question is already sold. (See Juniper Defends Core Business in Q1.)

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:41:34 AM
re: Juniper Gives Static to IPTV Critics Juniper wouldn't literally merge the E and M series, of course (different OSes, etc.) ..... but what about this idea of the one box that handles the functions of both?

Alcatel talks about the TiMetra stuff being built to handle both consumer and corporate types of subscribers. Should Juniper try going down that path?
brahmos 12/5/2012 | 3:41:30 AM
re: Juniper Gives Static to IPTV Critics take the absolute nos of subscribers with pinch of salt. many box have certain caveats that X subscribers but only if on < N intf/subintf (coz each subsc or intf uses some common resource pool) and call setup rates maybe quite slow with real-world features applied on a session. or some useful features applicable on a session may not scale as high as potential number of raw sessions. its necessary to understand all these before one compares scaling nos.

the external docs may not reveal this, but potential customers are given the scaling matrix.
gottappp 12/5/2012 | 3:41:23 AM
re: Juniper Gives Static to IPTV Critics The E-series historically has not had such caveats with subscriber counts, which is one of the main reasons that it has been successful.

Call setup rates become less and less important as non-stop failovers become the norm, and in-service software upgrades are supported. When you never lose subscribers, it doesn't really matter how fast or slow you set up new sessions as new subs are added a few at a time.
gottappp 12/5/2012 | 3:41:21 AM
re: Juniper Gives Static to IPTV Critics I particularly like Alcatel's response. We have fewer subs, but more bandwidth per sub! A good marketing lesson for all - if you have a weakness, reciprocate it into a strength. Juniper outa be selling a feature that limits the subscriber count to 1000, so you can get a whopping 160Mbps per subscriber.
networkit 12/5/2012 | 3:41:14 AM
re: Juniper Gives Static to IPTV Critics So by this I take it you believe that a reasonable amount of bandwidth to the subs isn't a factor, is that correct? At 64K subs the E320 box can only provide 2.5Mbps per sub, whereas the SR can provide 6.25Mbps per sub.

If you really believe that 1.25Mbps per sub is sufficient, which is what you get for 128K subs on the E320 then hey all the more power to you.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:41:13 AM
re: Juniper Gives Static to IPTV Critics
I think you both are talking about the problem wrong:

Lightspeed: Layer 2 Metro Ethernet Aggregation Network, with a large centralized BRAS functionality.

Verizon FiOS (and BLS pre-AT&T): Layer 3 Service Edge routers with many fewer subscribers per Router.

In the Verizon (using Juniper - BLS uses Redback), per subscriber management is very close to the edge. The Lightspeed Model limits the per subscriber details to HSI service and deals with Video QoS differently.

gottappp 12/5/2012 | 3:41:13 AM
re: Juniper Gives Static to IPTV Critics "I personally believe that Alcatel is in a better position: you can fix small vs. large subs by modifying your software, and small vs. large capacity by upgrading your hardware, and the latter is a much larger undertaking, from line cards to switch fabric."

I disagree. Functionally speaking, low bandwidth to many subs with qos services enabled is a superset of high bandwidth to few subs with the same services enabled. Software alone will not bridge the gap. Going to 128K subs from 64K subs, scaling policy, qos, and routing in the process is non-trivial and requires hardware changes as well as software changes. You can't search through a QOS hierarchy and find a queue to transmit from among so many subs in software. Juniper has had several generations of subscriber management ASICs, and pushing up to release 8.0 in its routing and subscriber management software. Fine-grained, per subscriber QOS with lots of services enabled is a tough nut to crack, and even tougher to scale.

If you want to argue that a box with more GE capacity is better than one with less GE capacity, all else equal, no one could argue. But we all know that is not the end of the sentence. This "bandwidth/sub" argument is marketing nonsense. Either box can be configured to the same bandwidth/subscriber level if desired by tweaking the subscriber count. What differs is what services a provider wishes to deploy, and how well a given box scales when those services are enabled.

"E320: PPP for home DSL service with low bandwidth, many subs - the hardware and software are tuned for that application

7750: service edge router - large bandwidth, few customers"

The choice you're suggesting is a straw-man, and an Alcatel marketing tag-line. If the E320 has the ability to scale to lots of subs, then it surely has the ability to scale to fewer subs, and achieve the same "bandwidth/sub" as Alcatel touts. As for ppp - my understanding is that it is access agnostic, in that it can do DHCP and PPP equally well, both at the same time, and even to the same customer at the same time over the same pvc or vlan. How a provider chooses to deploy it is up to them. Flexibility is the bottom line.

So aside for the pure raw bandwidth, there's not a lot to claim for Alcatel. Big dumb pipes can't necessarily deliver services (just ask the Project Lightspeed architects...)


desiEngineer 12/5/2012 | 3:41:13 AM
re: Juniper Gives Static to IPTV Critics You also have to take into account the origins of the two platforms:

E320: PPP for home DSL service with low bandwidth, many subs - the hardware and software are tuned for that application

7750: service edge router - large bandwidth, few customers

Both of them are morphing into each other - i.e., large bandwidth, many subs.

I personally believe that Alcatel is in a better position: you can fix small vs. large subs by modifying your software, and small vs. large capacity by upgrading your hardware, and the latter is a much larger undertaking, from line cards to switch fabric.

It's a much more expensive prospect for the provider also. Suppose Provider A has E320s which have been deployed to support 2.5Mbps per sub @ 128K subs. Provider B has 7750s with 6Mpbs per sub @ 64K subs.

Would you rather be provider A if the E320 requires new blades and a new switch fabric to get to 6Mbps, or provider B if the 7750 needs new software for the 128K subs?

gottappp 12/5/2012 | 3:41:05 AM
re: Juniper Gives Static to IPTV Critics "(just ask the Project Lightspeed architects...)"

sorry - i meant to say Uverse, not project lightspeed.
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