NSN, Juniper Converge IP & Optical

People are starting to talk about Nokia Networks and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR). Are they just best friends or is it something more?

The two vendors' carrier Ethernet teams are already joined at the hip and in tight formation, and now their respective optical transport and IP routing teams have been seen out clubbing in the early hours (metaphorically speaking, unless anyone has photographic evidence they can share). (See NSN, Juniper Plan Ethernet Marriage.)

NSN and Juniper, essentially, are integrating their respective core network technologies to improve efficiencies and help reduce carrier operating expenditures. (See NSN, Juniper Integrate IP, Optical.)

So is this another entry into the emerging Packet-Optical Transport System (P-OTS) market that's currently populated by the likes of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), ECI Telecom Ltd. , Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY), Nortel Networks Ltd. , and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA)? (See Packet-Optical Transport: What's in Store for 2009?, Packet-Optical Transport Evolution, ECI Claims Optical Lead, and Ericsson Makes Packet-Optical Play.)

Actually, it isn't.

Instead, the NSN/Juniper combo is pitching its new development head-on against Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) in the IP-over-DWDM domain.

And the partners don't have plans to develop a new-from-scratch platform to tackle demand for combined packet/optical platforms either.

Instead they've worked on getting Juniper's T Series core routers to work with NSN's hiT7300 WDM platform as if they were a single entity, all managed by the latter's Transport Network Management System (TNMS). The idea is to have a transponder on the Juniper routers that can deliver multiple channels to the NSN WDM platform (instead of the single, or "gray," channel enabled by most routers).

NSN stresses the importance of having a single OSS to handle all the links between the router and WDM platforms. "Unlike comparable offers on the market, this integration enables the carrier to use a single network management system for both platforms. That provides the sort of management carriers would have on a classic optical transport system without the need for gray fibers from the router," states an NSN spokeswoman.

The initial integrated solution is for 10 Gbit/s -- "that's where the demand is at the moment," says NSN -- with 40G and 100G in the future.

So is this what carriers are looking for?

Heavy Reading analyst and optical platform specialist Sterling Perrin suggests not.

This move is "clearly Juniper’s response to Cisco’s IP-over-DWDM products and strategy," notes the analyst. IP over DWDM, he adds, "can be quite nebulous a term, but in the Cisco context, it means integrated DWDM optics on routers, which eliminates the need for DWDM transponders on WDM systems adjacent to the routers. This saves capex."

And in Heavy Reading’s view, "IP over DWDM is one of the three main architectures for migrating operators to packet-optical transport. The other two are converged P-OTS (such as the Fujitsu Flashwave 9500) and Layer 2/3 switches that incorporate connection-oriented Ethernet. Our surveys repeatedly show that IP over DWDM is -- by far -- the least popular option of the three packet optical transport options."


"IP over DWDM is a particularly big problem with large operators that have traditionally had siloed technology groups," Perrin continues. "While we are seeing an organizational convergence to Ethernet and optical transport as one group, the IP group is still largely viewed as separate. IP over DWDM melds all of these organizations together -- which is an organizational problem."

But that's not all.

"The other big problem we see is that many operators want to decrease the role of IP routers in their transport networks for a simple reason: IP routers are expensive and Ethernet is cheap. Why? Core IP routing has two competitors whereas Ethernet and even optical transport have dozens. It’s difficult to imagine operators wanting to become more reliant on the limited pool of routing suppliers by bringing them more and more into the transport network," concludes Perrin with aplomb.

In other words, NSN and Juniper might be hitting the packet/optical dance floor together right now, but, in Perrin's opinion, they're dancing to the wrong tune.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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