Virtualization to fundamentally change telecom networks

Virtualization will be the new model for service provider network infrastructure, and if it is effective, carrier revenue will increase while capex and opex decrease. Juniper is leading the way with a new router virtualization switching fabric that uses its existing operating JUNOS system.

Service providers are dependent on the infrastructure they build to deliver profitable services, but they must

also be nimble and flexible to scale these services. Investment protection and operational continuity are also critical components in purchasing infrastructure. Ideally, carrier revenue should be increasing while capital and operational expenditures are decreasing. Juniper Networks is helping provide this in two new ways.

Service provider and carrier networks are beginning to look more and more like IT infrastructure.

Eve Griliches
Program Director
IDC

First, Juniper is introducing the TX Matrix Plus switching fabric to interconnect up to 16 T-series core routers. With up to 1024 10G ports or 256 40G ports, carriers can build a 25 Tb routing platform in only 11 racks. All interfaces, software and high-availability features come standard on the platform, as does the JUNOS operating system.

Second, Juniper is introducing integrated optics (DWDM interfaces) supporting G.709 and GMPLS. Juniper has been criticized for not having this matrix available to date, but the real question is this: Is there really a need for a routing node of such high capacity? The answer is actually yes, but for different reasons than building just a single 25 Tbps node. Providers have built multiple IP overlay networks with little or no convergence of those networks. Each network that is built for a specific service is, in fact, a routing overlay.

This means providers that support multiple services for several product-marketing divisions must build multiple networks to support these services. And here lies the interesting change in infrastructure we are seeing: Service provider and carrier networks are beginning to look more and more like IT infrastructure.

Virtualization to fundamentally change network infrastructure

The data center today adopts virtualization as the de facto operating model, and although it may take a while to adopt this model in service provider networks, it is a paradigm shift that is indeed happening. Virtualization can and will fundamentally change infrastructure networks in the same way it changed data centers. Providers know they need to converge their networks, but embedded in their organizations are standard ways of operating that may take longer to change.

Juniper is introducing network virtualization so providers can enable virtualization in their core without changing their operating environment. The hardware combination of the TX Matrix Plus with the JCS 1200 enables secure virtualization and brings all the "separate" routers onto one common infrastructure without changing the organizational structure of the provider, the business model or the network. It decouples the infrastructure and services into secure and isolated networks on individual hardware, where accounting, billing and services for the wireline, wireless and wholesale divisions within the provider operate on the same equipment.

Juniper's core network virtualization: How it works

How does it work? Juniper's JCS 1200 creates protected system domains -- essentially hardware logical routers using one or more slots on a physical router. Each protected system domain may perform network functions, such as core or aggregation, and/or service functions like VPN or peering. In essence, each division and/or service is isolated and secured within a hardware logical router. With this key feature, providers can optimize their network and support new business models on shared but secure infrastructure.

The benefits are clear: Services are decoupled from the infrastructure, the organizational model within the provider need not change, each network is still operated individually by its organization, and expansion can take place with little risk to the existing network. Each division runs its own service, sharing space and power, and optionally sharing uplinks. Each slot or set of slots is literally a "hardware virtual router" that shares common equipment.

Virtual routing in the past has been limited because the separation of network elements was done in software, which is potentially less secure. Juniper's virtualization is a hardware-based approach (think hardware VPN) for each network, which is great for carrier providers that demand or require physical or isolated hardware for each network exchange they support. Availability of the TX Matrix Plus is 3Q09, and the virtualization feature comes in 4Q09 when paired with the JCS 1200.

The future of network virtualization

Network virtualization opens up new business opportunities like the "open garden" approach, where partner traffic can be treated with the same priority as the traffic within the network (or garden). Another option is to lease the IP backbone to a small wireless provider that cannot afford its own backbone, bringing additional revenue to the carrier at a lower-cost option to the wireless provider.

Virtualization brings a new paradigm where sharing the infrastructure, engineering, technologies and maintenance of the network actually brings disparate groups together on a common platform. We at IDC have never been sure whether the network defines the organization or the organization defines the network, but if multiple networks can operate securely on one platform, this clearly will have an impact on the overall organization in real and positive ways.

About the author: Eve Griliches is a program director within IDC's Telecommunications Equipment group. She provides in-depth insight and analysis on service provider routers and switches, as well as the optical networking market. Griliches also provides critical business intelligence on emerging technology trends and their impact on the overall telecom market space. Griliches joined IDC in 2005 after 10 years in product management for a number of network equipment vendors.

This was first published in February 2009

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