Juniper's Software Split
Juniper used to tout the simplicity and elegance of one operating system, but now it finds itself with two. Juniper and Unisphere products have separate operating systems and management platforms.
At least one Juniper competitor claims customers are raising the question these days -- not just for aesthetic reasons, but for ease of training. Unisphere ERX routers don't run the JunOS control code. So, just as its customers are moving toward a converged IP/MPLS network, some would like to see Juniper follow a converged software strategy.
First, the reality: Juniper has decided not to try it. "There are no plans to consolidate, and that decision is based on the fact that the legacy Unisphere and Juniper [systems] have large worldwide installed bases of customers that are content with the operating system," a spokeswoman says.
It's a tempting thought, though. Juniper has always prided itself on having a single software base, offering JunOS across the original M series of routers and the newer T series. By contrast, rival Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has different branches of its IOS software for different product lines; the GRS 12000 routers use a different IOS than, say, the 10000s. Moreover, Cisco is said to be mulling an entirely new software system for future routers (see Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales and HFR, Where Are You?).
By maintaining the existing systems, Juniper is making the right decision, say analysts at Heavy Reading, the independent research division of Light Reading Inc. To port the ERX boxes to JunOS, which seems the most likely convergence option, would require porting the code, making user-interface modifications, and running regression tests on all of Juniper and Unisphere's product lines.
"It would cost a fortune, and by the time they did all that, the E series would probably be obsolescent," says Heavy Reading chief technologist Geoff Bennett. "From a logistical point of view, it's just not practical."
Fellow Heavy Reading analyst Graham Beniston is blunter about the issue: "I cannot understand why a sensible carrier would expect the same interfaces on the Juniper M series and [Unisphere ERX]," he says.
That's because the ERX's command-line interface wasn't created out of the blue. It was made to look like Cisco's, a decision made by Redstone Communications -- the router company Unisphere acquired in 1999 -- as a matter of practicality. "As most carriers have tons of Cisco kits, they also have plenty of Cisco-literate engineers to look after them. Much rarer will be engineers versed in JunOS," Beniston says.
Thus, in an ironic twist, Juniper is keeping a piece of Cisco close at hand, probably for years to come.
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading