Juniper Divvies Up the Core

There's also an application waiting in the mobile world, which would let operators rent a backbone from a wireline provider. Or carriers that own both wired and wireless networks can start running them on the same backbone. Analyst Griliches thinks that kind of consolidation is going to be popular as the recession wears on.

"While we're in this down time, we're all to some extent looking to clean our houses out. I think the service providers are doing that, too. They're looking not at the first mile, but at second-mile and third-mile inefficiencies," Griliches says.

Juniper's hope is that these these potential new services will give carriers a reason to consider the TX Matrix Plus even if they don't need that kind of bandwidth right away. The new services would help fill the routers while requiring no organizational changes on the carrier's side.

Juniper says the key to this concept is the Juniper Control System (JCS) 1200. Introduced in 2007, the device houses the network's control plane -- an alternative to having the control plane distributed among routers. (See Juniper Splits Out Its Control Plane.)

That gives Juniper a new degree of, well, control over the networks. It also means that each virtualized service doesn't require a new processor blade -- because that kind of processing is handled in the JCS 1200. That factor can save slots on the router.

Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), and Redback Networks Inc. already boast virtual routers as features. But Juniper sets itself apart from those efforts because the JCS selects groups of linecards to form each virtual router: In other words, it's a hardware-based scheme, rather than software-based.

Among the advantages is security. One awkward point of the early software-based virtual-routing attempts was that "you were broadcasting all of the routes to all of the routers," Griliches says. The virtual routers can share uplink ports -- or, security-obsessed customers like government agencies can be given isolated uplinks.

Seeing the light
But wait, there's even more: Juniper is now pushing the IP-over-optical concept that Cisco loves so much. The idea is to integrate an optical transport network (OTN) transponder into the router port, obviating the need for a separate transponder system. (See Cisco's CRS-1 Goes Optical.)

Juniper is doing this using off-the-shelf transponders from a vendor it's not specifying. Cisco's IP-over-DWDM is handled via transponders from StrataLight, which recently got acquired by Opnext Inc. (Nasdaq: OPXT). (See Opnext Steps Up With StrataLight and Opnext Completes StrataLight Buy.)

Naturally, the router guys claim there are lots of advantages to this. The IP network gains some knowledge of what's going on in the optical network -- meaning routers can reroute traffic if it looks as if a break has occurred.

The optical camp isn't so certain. "That whole vision is great from the router vendors' standpoint, but the economics aren't great for the customer" because router ports are so expensive, says Jagdeep Singh, CEO of Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN).

Singh thinks the world is heading in the opposite direction -- towards packet optical networks, where switching becomes a function of the optical layer. (See Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise.)

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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