Can Juniper make intelligent telecom service architecture affordable?

An intelligent telecom service architecture enables carriers to offer more than dumb pipes, and a new Juniper Networks chipset can make new services cost-effective for carriers.

An intelligent telecom service architecture enables carriers to offer more than dumb pipes, but developing new

services has often been synonymous with paying for new infrastructure to support them. With a new chipset and a new open software platform, Juniper Networks wants carriers to feel they can have their cake and eat it too.

The hardware is an enabler for the broader mission that Junos Space enables. Absent the ability to grow services, the service layer is moot.

Tom Nolle
President, CIMI Corp.

"You can deploy that new service on existing equipment," said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. "[So] you have a much higher probability of being able to put a box into a location in the network and have it perform well there by simply expanding its number of ports … without having to worry about the box being [made] obsolete by a change in mission."

Juniper unveiled the new chipset, dubbed Junos Trio, for its MX Series routers last week, along with an open application programming interface (API) software strategy, Junos Space. Combined, they allow operators to work directly in the service architecture by programming network actions -- as opposed to simply relating them -- into the microprocessor.

"We can create an instruction versus using an instruction," said Nolle, who authored a free report analyzing the Junos Space software. "Data movement and basic functions of networking are not a big deal anymore, and what people are talking about now is extending functionality into the service layer.… Making calls, answering calls and call management are service-layer functions that are increasingly valuable. When Google provides Google Voice, they're not worrying about transport…. All the focus now is on the personalization."

Launch new telecom services on existing network architecture

The new Juniper technology could empower providers to quickly launch new services -- and yield revenue -- without much additional capital investment.

"[Carriers] are trying to build new networks where they can basically bill for new services and capabilities," said John Mazur, principal analyst at Ovum. "What Juniper is trying to do is incorporate [into silicon] more of the functionality that's needed for these expanded applications … and these routers are doing more to monetize services for service providers." 

Juniper has billed its edge routers now as "universal edge routers," claiming they can perform a wider depth and breadth of service-layer functions. Although he reserved judgment on Juniper's claim, Mazur said carriers should be expecting routers to do more than push bits around.

"As time goes on, the role that routers play will continue to be more complex," Mazur said. "Instead of being a router, I'm thinking they're becoming a platform."

But carriers would be wasting their money just to install the Trio-enabled routers, sit back and wait for the return on investment, Nolle said. The strength of Junos lies in its longevity and flexibility, which translate into savings in capital expenditures for carriers, he added.

"The hardware is an enabler for the broader mission that Junos Space enables. Absent the ability to grow services, the service layer is moot," Nolle said. "We look at this as an industry driven by technology. It's not. It's driven by finance."

It is unclear just how "open" the service architecture will be -- whether the Junos platform will support all programming developed by competing vendors -- according to Mike Jude, a program director at Frost & Sullivan. But even leaving the door ajar is still significant for carriers, he said.

"We're kind of opening up the architecture here, which is something I'd say a [vendor such as] Cisco would never do," Jude said. "You're not really tied to this."

 Which carriers need Juniper to build intelligent networks?

Carriers of any size and network tier, especially those that aren't already Juniper customers, are unlikely to do a rip-and-replace to accommodate the Junos platform, according to analysts. But those that are expanding their networks should take notice.

"In most cases, these operators are growing their requirements fast enough that the orderly growth of their network provides them with ways to introduce this stuff," Nolle said. "It would [benefit] any provider that was in a service-growth mode, who is offering new services [and] serving new customers. If you're in a growth mode, this is definitely something you need to look at."

Tier 2 operators could also profit from energy savings associated with the system, Nolle said. Juniper promises up to 2.4 terabits-per-second speed while using half as much power per gigabit as its competitors.

Although potentially "very attractive" to existing Juniper customers, the system is likely to be a harder sell on other providers, Jude said. Competitors are likely to follow with similar offerings, leaving some carriers to just stick with their trusted legacy vendor.

"We're talking about the service providers that make huge investments in infrastructure. There's no such thing as a small purchase order," Jude said. "The attraction for those people seeing this is, 'Well, that's interesting, and maybe I ought to take a look at this, but guess what -- I'm 100% Cisco.' And there is nothing in here about whether it'll play nice with other vendors' equipment."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer

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