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Juniper merges network core elements to cut carrier costs

Stephen Lawson | March 4, 2011
Juniper Networks is developing a massive switch that could replace traditional IP (Internet Protocol) routers in the core of service-provider networks and combine optical and electronic technologies that today exist in separate systems with dedicated staffs.

Many carriers have been looking for pure MPLS switching for their network cores, according to Howard. In addition, large carriers maintain separate staffs of engineers for optical and electronic switching, as well as separate management systems, and they want to converge those infrastructures eventually, Howard said. The PTX switches could allow those big carriers to consolidate their staffs over time, he said. Those struggling with the most exploding traffic are looking to consolidate the technologies in two or three years, while others may take five to eight years, he said.

Juniper has a reasonable shot at getting into the optical equipment market, currently served by rival Cisco Systems (CSCO) as well as specialists such as Ciena (CIEN), Mota of ACG Research said. He estimates the company's optical revenue opportunity at $2 billion per year.

The PTX platform combines these approaches in the same box and is not designed as a router at all. Juniper wants to relegate routers to the edges of the network and devote the PTX chassis to switching. This will allow the company to focus the processing power of the new system on the tasks required of the core, Juniper said.

Carriers are under pressure to boost their network capacity to handle fast-growing traffic loads. They want to do so economically, because they continue to bring in about the same amount of revenue from their subscribers even as third-party service and content providers deliver more bandwidth-hungry offerings such as video, analysts said. By optimizing the PTX for switching instead of routing, and integrating optical technology into the same chassis, Juniper may cut carriers' costs while bolstering their network capacity, they said.

For enterprises and consumers who buy services from carriers, this might mean a slower rise in their monthly bills or better services for the same rates.

"Because of some of this cost being reduced ... you would hope that this kind of reduces the cost per bit and therefore is passed down to the IT guys," said analyst Ray Mota of ACG Research.

Adding optical switching to a packet switch brings Juniper into a totally new market and could dramatically change carriers' network operations over time. Today, carriers feed packets from their core routers into a separate optical infrastructure, which places the traffic on separate wavelengths of light for fast transmission. The traffic needs to be converted from the electronic to the optical realm, and then back again on the other end of the network. Putting both in the same chassis simplifies the network and removes those costly conversions, while also making it easier to scale up the infrastructure, Juniper said.

 

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