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Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps

Juniper Networks Inc.'s (Nasdaq: JNPR) complex Infranet Initiative is beginning to solidify. But, while its goals are admirable, it remains unclear how Juniper will pull it off -- particularly without the participation of network kingpin Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).

Launched in October, the Infranet has become a big part of Juniper's corporate message -- big enough that CEO Scott Kriens took time to expound on it during Tuesday's earnings call (see Juniper Does Vision Thing and Juniper Surprises With Q2). So what exactly is it, you ask? Good question.

The end goal is to create standards that will ensure QOS (quality of service) and security for connections across public networks, primarily the Internet. This would make the network "smarter," so that it could differentiate among applications: If a user were to request, say, a video download, the network would automatically deliver the appropriate bandwidth and prioritization for that service and for the user's device.

"This is what will be required industrywide for us all to deliver on users' expectations," Kriens told analysts on Tuesday's conference call.

Like free ice cream for everybody, the idea sounds great but won't be easy to pull off. One key will be to standardize the interfaces between carrier networks, as well as the interfaces service providers use for client interfaces. Exactly how Juniper will get these ideas to the standards phase -- or even which standards bodies would be appropriate -- is unclear.

But first things first. Juniper at least has amassed carrier backing for the idea, as Kriens emphasized.

Carriers sitting on Juniper's Infranet Initiative Council now include BT Group plc (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA), China Unicom Ltd., Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), NTT Communications Corp., Orange SA (London/Paris: OGE), Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), and Telenor ASA (Nasdaq: TELN).

The Council includes big names in other tech sectors as well: America Online Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), and Polycom Inc. On the networking hardware side, though, the only council members other than Juniper are LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), both of which are already partners with Juniper (see Lucent Partners With Juniper).

Of course, one prominent voice is missing -- Cisco, whose routers still hold majority rule in the networking world. "There have been conversations with Cisco about joining, and I believe at this point they're not going to join," says Paula Reinman, director of marketing at Juniper. "But Cisco is pretty well represented, because all those carriers use Cisco and Juniper equipment."

Still, some believe the Cisco imprimatur will be necessary for the Infranet to fly.

"Without Cisco joining, it ain't gonna happen, no matter what. Ninety percent of the edge routers are Cisco routers, and this is going to require changes all the way to the edge," says an executive with one equipment vendor (no, not Cisco). The executive suspects Juniper is using the Infranet to initiate a change in networks to create "an opportunity to sell more boxes" -- a marketing stunt, in other words.

Others find the idea intriguing. Caspian Networks Inc. hasn't been invited onto the Council but plans to attend meetings to keep up with progress. "There's always a risk something like this is just posturing, but there's an equal chance it could accomplish something," says Dallas Kachan, Caspian's director of marketing.

The Infranet is nebulous and a long way off, but a plan is forming. The council met last month, on the day before Supercomm in Chicago, to hammer out a reference architecture that divides the network into four layers:
  • Applications -- software, such as Oracle
  • Devices -- cell phones, PDAs, etc.
  • Network processing -- the area where Juniper would contribute
  • Transport


Despite the carrier support, getting representatives of these different layers together remains a challenge. IBM and Oracle can certainly help on the software side, but what about those pesky devices, which will need to speak Infranet in order to make this work? Only HP would fit in that category, although Juniper is contacting some others, says Paula Reinman, director of marketing at Juniper.

The next step will be to develop some case studies exemplifying the Infranet's requirements, examples being an Inter Carrier Interface and a Carrier Network Interface (see Pradeep Sindhu, Juniper Networks). Eventually, the council will submit proposals to the appropriate standards bodies. A timeframe for this step hasn't been set, Reinman says.

The next meeting of the Infranet Initiative Council hasn't been set but is likely to happen during the fourth quarter, according to Reinman.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading


Archives of Related Light Reading Webinars:

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Peter Heywood 12/5/2012 | 1:26:59 AM
re: Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps I suspect that Cisco's "grand plan" we refered to in the articles on Corvil and Parc..

http://www.lightreading.com/do...

http://www.lightreading.com/do...

...add up to Cisco's alternative to Juniper's Infranet.

Just a hunch.
Heb81 12/5/2012 | 1:26:59 AM
re: Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps LR picked Caspian to mention in this article. WHy Caspian and not Hyperchip? Do you guys have special relationship with this company?
Just wonder.
Peter_anonymous 12/5/2012 | 1:26:57 AM
re: Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps The answer is simple. Do a search on "Hyperchip" on this board and you'll see all the negative messages posted by ex-employees. They have destroyed the good reputation of the company. I do not know any writer who wants to refer to Hyperchip in a positive article.

They do not only destroy HC. They destroy the wealth of Quebec.

My 2 cents!
Larry, Monkey 12/5/2012 | 1:26:57 AM
re: Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps Yeah. "Just wonder," OK?

You're absolutely right. Light Reading Inc. has been in Caspian's hip-pocket since Day 1. Finally - Thank God! - someone has figured it out!
All those mounds of cash Caspian has been hauling in? That's right. It's all been flowing into the Light Reading (Inc.) coffers.
Jeez.
Unless you can figure a way to be more tiresome, would you just please Shut the Hell Up?
OK?

Idiot.

Kopychief
CogswellCogs 12/5/2012 | 1:26:55 AM
re: Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps In reply to #4:

Respect for the readers - a LightReading hallmark.

Of course, what do you expect from a website that makes fun of anorexics (http://www.lightreading.com/do... and victims of fatal accidents (http://www.lightreading.com/do... (Lighten up, Cogs, we were just having a little fun!!)

Make up your mind - are you a serious destination for the telecom industry or a too-hip-for-your-own-good smartass blog? You can't have it both ways, and are heading towards neither.

Hope this helps (hahahahaha!),

Cogs
CogswellCogs 12/5/2012 | 1:26:54 AM
re: Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps Surprise - the LR page mangles links! (I am shocked and outraged! Heads should roll for this!)

Remove the ) from the end of the first link, and the )? from the second. Or, on second thought, you will think much more highly of LR if you don't go to those sites.

Cogs
Scott Raynovich 12/5/2012 | 1:26:53 AM
re: Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps CogswellCogs--

I'd just like to take this opportunity to point out that YOU messed up the links, not us.

--Scott
CogswellCogs 12/5/2012 | 1:26:49 AM
re: Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps Nice try, Scott. Wrong, but nice try. I typed the links correctly as straight text, and your wonderful software package incorrectly converted them to hyperlinks.

I await your public apology.

Cogs
Honestly 12/5/2012 | 1:26:47 AM
re: Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps 1. Mr Matsumoto. It is clear that you were not at the IIC meeting in Chicago. As a particpanting company (not Juniper) I am insulted that you assume this council to be any one company's. It is our Initiative.

2.There is a thoughtful plan to get ideas to standards groups and appropriate bodies.

3. The IIC has global carrier, and supplier members. An assumption by the un named executive is one that tells me he would like to be a member, or is envious of the very serious nature of our mission. A marketing stunt NO. An industry wide initiative Yes.

4. Cisco is welcomed and why would they not join us. Do they not want to partner with us.??? Do you assume they want to insult us.??? I think Cisco would be highly insulted If you asked these questions. They are a fine company, do not assume for them, or let your readers
light-headed 12/5/2012 | 1:26:45 AM
re: Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps This is just an attempt by Juniper to hype themselves and grab mindshare from Cisco. They have a bunch of vague ideas about security and QoS and spout them like the wisdom of the gods. Security and QoS are achievable without coming up with some complicated standard which then forces every other vendor to comply or be locked out.

Juniper also got some eggheads from a couple of carrier/ISPs to jump on (in the hope of some publicity for themselves and their companies - they want to be seen as cutting edge thought leaders... whatever). In addition you see their partners (Lucent, Ericsson, etc.) who just want some crumbs off the Juniper table jumping into this mess also.

In the end what we have is a bunch of zombies playing follow the leader while Juniper starts to push standards that are not needed in the hopes of locking others out like Cisco has done for years (EIGRP, HSRP, etc.)... boring, boring, boring... reminds me of the old joke: "What do you call 50 telecom marketing guys at the bottom of the ocean? A good start!" I apologize to the quality telecom marketing people out there (They DO exist!)

Sorry to be so cynical but we have all seen this before many times...
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