Appliance Vendors Don't Fear Cisco
Earlier this week, Cisco introduced its ASR 1000 platform, a router that's meant to also do the jobs of deep packet inspection (DPI) gear, session border controllers (SBCs), and firewalls. (See Cisco Takes Hold of the Edge.)
Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) has also been pushing the idea of moving intelligence deeper into its products by more closely integrating session management and policy control in its products. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) might be getting into the game as well. (See Juniper Pushes Services Policy, AlcaLu's Edge Upgrade, and AlcaLu Identifies Deep Packet Potential.)
The argument goes that by letting routers handle these functions, enterprises and service providers can do away with standalone network elements that only perform one or two specialized tasks.
"Obviously customers and service providers want fewer boxes in their networks," says IDC analyst Eve Griliches. "Everyone wants appliance functionality moved into routers or switches."
But DPI and SBC vendors are skeptical that embedded functionality can completely replace standalone products. For one thing, they question whether an integrated device can perform at the same level as a standalone device.
"The burden is on the newcomers to prove that this works," says Kevin Mitchell, director of marketing at SBC vendor Acme Packet Inc. (Nasdaq: APKT). "There's a whole host of functions that, combined with performance, calls for a standalone network element."
It's debatable whether customers even want an all-in-one device, says NextPoint Networks Inc. chief marketing officer Mark Pugerude.
"The god box has fallen out of favor," Pugerude says. "When carriers are looking at applying new applications across their networks they tend to buy opportunistically. They use best-of-breed products for critical applications and combine less important applications into one platform."
Perhaps most importantly, standalone vendors say that a player like Cisco probably won't be able to support the developing needs of customers, because it lacks their level of specialization.
"It comes down to core competency and focus," says Arbor Networks CTO Rob Malan. "If a company is 100 percent focused on a market, it will build better products than those focused on the general purpose market."
— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading