Juniper's Ambitions Bigger Than Buyouts

Juniper Networks' vision of the futureis a compelling one, especially if you can suspend reality while you consider its merits. Announced last fall, Juniper's "Infranet" of the

March 10, 2004

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Juniper Networks' vision of the futureis a compelling one, especially if you can suspend reality while you consider its merits. Announced last fall, Juniper's "Infranet" of the future certainly makes sense -- an all-encompassing network of networks based on industry standards, which supports dynamic security, quality-of-service guarantees and zero downtime. But as company CTO Pradeep Sindhu admitted Tuesday, actually getting to that place is a lot harder than describing the destination.

"It's easy to put up a vision," but much harder to actually make it happen,Sindhu told the attendees at the Network Outlook conference in Redwood Shores, Calif., Tuesday morning. While Juniper has volunteered its leadership in the effort, getting others to play along with its vision is what will make the 'Infranet' a reality or not, Sindhu said.

"If we had 100 percent market share, there wouldn't be a problem [in putting the Infranet idea into products]," Sindhu said after his talk. "But without the industry standards, we're not going to make much progress either. The problem is, people still sometimes think they can get a temporary [market] advantage with a proprietary solution. But that's almost always the wrong thing to do for the industry overall."

Still in its infancy, Juniper's Infranet idea has at its core two standard interfaces, one between clients and the network, and one between carriers. The client interface, Sindhu explained, is needed to tell the network what type of services an application might need.

"Today, there is no way for an application to communicate with the network, to tell it what the communication wants or needs," Sindhu said. Without such a standard, he said, new network applications will be hard-pressed to reach the ubiquity of voice-tone phone calls.On the carrier side, he said a similar interface is needed to both assure the path of client applications, and to settle charges with each other. "If we didn't have settlement charges for voice, we wouldn't have the international phone network we have today," Sindhu said. Both interfaces, he said, would help provide a workable business model for the future, where end-users would have new applications and carriers would have certified ways to make money.

"The model where bandwidth is free doesn't work," Sindhu said. "We should all grow up and move on."

Without better security, reliability and quality of service, new applications will have a hard time emerging, Sindhu said. While a future 'Infranet' might be able to handle such requests as a service, present needs are what drove Juniper to acquire NetScreenearlier this year.

"NetScreen was very complementary to Juniper, because we see the problems of networking and security inexorably linked," Sindhu said. "In the last couple years, we've been alarmed by how the infrastructure has become a bigger target, with ever more sophisticated attacks."

While he wouldn't comment on what other technologies or companies Juniper might deem necessary to bring into its own product fold, Sindhu was ready to offer Juniper's leadership in the Infranet effort, which as yet has not attracted any significant public acceptance (especially from networking giant Cisco Systems, who could probably doom the idea just by ignoring it). But by at least talking about a bigger future, Juniper is showing potential customers that it's thinking about more than just the box they want to sell you today."The products Juniper is selling today have the right mechanisms for quality and security," Sindhu said. "We're confident that we know what is needed to do, and we will offer that leadership for the industry, and work with all the standards bodies to help make it happen. There's still a lot of difficult work to do. But it's clear that there is a need for a single packet infrastructure for all applications -- nothing else is viable."

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights