The company has created a new service model -- called the MINT (Model for Integrated Network Transformation) -- that helps carriers create new data services revenue and save on operational costs, according to company officials (see Juniper Outlines Consolidated Vision).
The strategy itself is very different from Juniper’s traditional marketing campaigns. In the past, the company has highlighted its technical features as it tried to win over Internet service provider engineers. But now the company is targeting carrier executives who are less interested in faster routers than they are in generating new revenue and saving on operational costs.
“One thing that Juniper is trying to do is improve its executive-level relationships at large carriers,” says Mark Bieberich, an analyst with Yankee Group. “This model or vision that they are proposing resonates more with the upper echelon of large carrier organizations.”
As a result, Juniper is trying to change its image from Internet router supplier to network solutions provider. This means focusing attention on its multiservice strategy. Carriers agree that Internet Protocol (IP) and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) are the future, but they aren’t willing to give up their old Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and Frame Relay networks just yet (see Carrier Tech Architects Pipe Up).
Most incumbent carriers are planning to deploy multiservice gear next year as they build out their data networks. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) announced its strategy last month, sending the stock market into a frenzy (see Verizon Talk Stokes Stocks). SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC) will soon announce a new data strategy; and there are rumors that AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) has recently issued a detailed RFP (request for proposal) that includes multiservice and MPLS routing and switching functionality.
Juniper has already made significant headway with incumbent carriers overseas. Just today it announced that Baharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), India's largest telecom operator, has selected Juniper Networks M-series routers for India's first nationwide IP/MPLS network (see BSNL Picks Juniper Routers). In the end, what all these carriers are looking for is an infrastructure that can help them generate new revenue through new services while also lowering their operational costs.
“Juniper has realized that they need to communicate their message to the executives and not just the router jockeys,” says Michael Howard, an analyst with Infonetics Research Inc. “Even though the CTO may be fired up about a certain technology, it’s the CFOs that have the final say. It’s the reality if the new telecom age.”
But Juniper hasn’t completely abandoned its focus on technology. Buried within its new marketing message, the company today announced significant new product upgrades. Its IP routers family now comes with ATM functionality and finer-grained Quality of Service (QOS), and it includes an integrated policy management platform called the SDX. Juniper has also announced plans to integrate with third-party Open Source Solutions (OSS) vendors.
Let’s look at these one by one:
- ATM enhancements
Juniper has always supported ATM interfaces on its M- and T-series routers. Now it offers enhanced ATM services along with better port density. With its two-port ATM OC12 card, it can support up to 64 OC12 interfaces in half a telecom rack. It’s also added other features like rate shaping and rate limiting on ATM virtual circuits. These are features that were already present on the ERX edge routing platform the company acquired from Unisphere.
Analysts say that adding more robust ATM features and increasing port densities of faster ATM interfaces is crucial for vendors looking to sell into incumbent networks.
“Almost every ATM interface on routers today is useless in a carrier application,” says Tom Nolle, president of network consultancy CIMI Corp. He says that most ATM interfaces on routers only connect customers to existing ATM services, but they cannot be used to create or originate ATM services for a carrier.
“Cisco, in the main, doesn’t offer carrier ATM interfaces,” adds Nolle, who consults for both Juniper and its archrival Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). “Even in special instances, Cisco currently can’t match the full range of features Juniper is talking about in its ATM offering.”
Nolle admits that neither Juniper nor Cisco routers can be used as full-blown ATM switches, but he says that Juniper is closer to that functionality with its latest enhancements than is Cisco.
- MPLS and IPv6
Juniper devices already allow for an overlay of services using MPLS. Juniper has enhanced its MPLS offering to allow carriers to offer not only point-to-point Layer 2 IP virtual private networks (VPNs) through its support of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Martini and Kompella Drafts, but its routers will also support the enhanced Kompella specifications that will allow carriers to offer Ethernet-based VPNs otherwise known as transparent LAN services (see VPLS Standard Debated). It also added support for IPv6 VPNs, which is important for mobile wireless applications.
- Q-Physical Interface Card (PIC)
Juniper realizes that carriers need to have much more control over their traffic in order to offer new services, so it has introduced the new Q-PIC, which adds more fine-grained queuing capability to M- and T-series routers. Like its other interface cards, this one will be able to process packets at wire speed no matter what software service is turned on. This new interface card originated with Unisphere’s ERX. The Q-PIC will provide 4,096 queues per physical interface card; eight output queues per channel on 768 customer channels; and strict priority queuing along with Random Early Discard (RED) and Weighted Random Early Discard (WRED) queuing. And it will be able to channelize from OC48 to DS0.
- OSS/SDX integration
To tie all these elements together, Juniper says it will work with unannounced third-party software vendors to integrate its routers with carrier OSS solutions. This integration would allow carriers to map user requests to the various services and integrate these services with authentication and billing systems.
Juniper also plans to integrate all of its products with Unisphere’s SDX service platform. This software-based management system offers enterprise users the ability to turn up new services and change existing services through a Web browser (see Edge Routing Gets Service Friendly ). A release date for this product across all platforms hasn’t been made public yet. It’s already available for the ERX platform.
Juniper isn’t the only company working on this strategy. Cisco is also rumored to be working on OSS integration. But unlike Juniper, Cisco is expected to build its OSS systems itself.
But analysts believe that Juniper’s adoption of a service-creation message shows that new multiservice features will be router-based.
“We’ll see more and more services added to routers rather than creating separate boxes to handle these functions,” says Infonetics' Howard. “The [Nortel] Shasta’s of the world may not be needed much longer.”
— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading