VoIP Systems

Juniper Kills Its Session Controllers

Juniper has discontinued the standalone session border controller (SBC) products it inherited when it acquired Kagoor Networks in March 2005, and has laid off staff in Israel as part of the process. (See Juniper to Acquire Kagoor.)

Juniper confirms its VoiceFlow range of SBCs are all now classified as "end of life," and that, as a result, 25 staff at its Herzelia, Israel, location have been laid off. Juniper describes the job losses as "very small... less than one percent of our [global] employee base," a spokeswoman says.

A Juniper spokeswoman says the company always had plans to integrate Kagoor's technology into existing products, and that "now is the right time to prioritize development in that direction to ensure we're well placed to deliver to customer requirements in the long term."

But while that platform integration was expected, some rival SBC vendors are surprised that Juniper has decided to exit the standalone SBC market so quickly.

According to Juniper's Website, the last order date for the VoiceFlow (VF) 1000 was June 30, while for the VF 3000 it is November 30 this year. Service providers using VoiceFlow SBCs, of which there are around 100, will be supported for five years after that date. (See Swisscom Deploys Kagoor's VoiceFlow, SingTel Picks Kagoor , Juniper Scores Kagoor Win, ISN Selects Kagoor's Controllers, BtNAccess Picks Kagoor, and Comwave Deploys Kagoor.)

The VF 3000 is a three unit-high SBC designed for edge and core session control functionality –- in essence, enabling the secure flow of traffic from one IP network to another. In the core, this would be from one service provider network to another, while at the edge it would help IP traffic, such as VOIP calls, traverse enterprise and residential firewalls. The VF 3000 was designed for networks with 1,000 or more concurrent VOIP calls.

The VF 1000 is an "entry-level" single unit-high SBC designed for network edge and enterprise network deployments, and was designed to handle up to 1,000 concurrent VOIP calls.

Juniper has also decided to discontinue the high-end VF 4000, designed for large networks that are handling 5,000 or more concurrent VOIP calls, though its absence from the end-of-life list suggests the product never made it into a carrier network.

Rivals believe Juniper has withdrawn too early from the standalone SBC market. "It's surprising Juniper didn't invest further in these products, as this is a growing market," says Kevin Mitchell, director of solutions marketing at Acme Packet Inc. (Nasdaq: APKT).

When Acme filed for an IPO in June this year, it reported a significant growth in revenues in the past few quarters, and cited figures from Infonetics Research Inc. that predicted the SBC market would grow from $86 million in 2005 to $613 million in 2009. (See Acme Packet Lines Up IPO.)

Mike Wilkinson, VP of marketing at Newport Networks plc (London: NNG), says he is surprised at the timing of the move given the current growth in the SBC market. He says Newport has already seen Juniper marketing an integrated edge router/SBC solution in the Asia/Pacific region, and notes that Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is also pushing the same integrated model. (See Cisco Integrates Session Control.)

Ditech Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: DITC), Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS), and Veraz Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: VRAZ) are also pushing an integrated SBC story. (See Ditech's Itsy Bitsy Jasomi Deal, Veraz Gets More Controlling, and Sonus Takes Session Control.)

But Wilkinson believes carriers want SBC functionality in a separate network element, and there's market research to back up his view. In the Heavy Reading report 'Session Management, IMS, and the Future of Session Border Controllers' published in April this year, a survey of carrier respondents found that 85% preferred SBCs to be separate network elements, while just 15 percent believed that integration into a router (4 percent), firewall (4 percent), or softswitch (7 percent) was the optimal approach. (See HR Eyes Session Mgt and Why Session Management Matters.)

It's not just customers and Israeli staff that are affected by Juniper's decision, as the VoiceFlow products were resold by a number of other vendors, including Siemens Communications Group , NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY), as part of their VOIP systems. (See Siemens to Resell Kagoor Controllers, Siemens Unveils 21CN Partners, NEC Selects Kagoor, Kagoor Teams With NTT-ME, and Kagoor Gets Hot With Lucent.)

Juniper's decision comes during a period of brisk activity in the SBC sector, with Acme filing for its IPO, Netrake Corp. being acquired, and Newport struggling to make its mark in the Tier 1 carrier community. (See AudioCodes Takes Netrake and Newport Sinks & Shrinks .)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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