Juniper aims new gear at branch office, Cisco

Juniper Networks hopes to take Cisco business with a new branch-office combo

During the next 18 months, Juniper Networks plans to roll out branch-office devices that integrate MPLS routing, VOIP and WAN acceleration capabilities - a combination designed to streamline architecture and reduce administrative costs.

The goal is to wrestle business away from Cisco's highly successful integrated services router (ISR), which supports comparable functions, but at a higher price, Juniper says.

With the demand for branch-office gear increasing 10 percent per year, Juniper stands a chance of tapping a growing reservoir of customers, says Johna Till Johnson, president and chief research officer of Nemertes Research and a Network World columnist. "This is an opportunity to take from Cisco, but it depends on the execution."

Juniper's plan streamlines branch-office architecture by merging functions of three boxes - router, WAN acceleration appliance and VOIP gateway - into one. Fewer devices can help reduce the cost of branch IT support, Johnson says, and that is significant. "Nearly 40% of IT time and energy goes to support branches," she says, quoting statistics her firm gathered from multinational corporations based in the United States.

To kick off the effort, Juniper this week plans to announce availability of two J-Series routers, J4350 and J6350, that are based on the same hardware as Juniper's branch Secure Services Gateways, the SSG 520 and SSG 550.

They differ in that the J4350 and J6350 run on Juniper's highly regarded router operating system called Junos. The SSGs run on ScreenOS, the security-tuned operating system Juniper acquired when it bought NetScreen.

The SSGs are security platforms with the full-featured NetScreen firewall and advanced gateway security features including VPN, antivirus and antispam functions, and content filtering.

The new J-Series routers are sophisticated routing platforms that support MPLS, VOIP and WAN acceleration.

The six-slot J-Series chassis support WAN acceleration blades that perform the same function as Juniper's separate WX WAN acceleration devices. The chassis also support VOIP cards being developed by Avaya in partnership with Juniper. Both types of cards will be available next year.

The differences with Cisco that Juniper hopes to exploit are that its WAN acceleration technology, acquired through its purchase of Peribit, is considered among the best, and Avaya's VOIP gear - particularly its failover capabilities - is highly regarded, says Jon Oltsik an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.

"This is an attempt to leverage acquisitions it has made and to develop its enterprise market," Oltsik says. Juniper bought NetScreen and Peribit for their security and WAN acceleration equipment respectively, with the hopes of making inroads with corporate customers.

It's bold to take on Cisco, Oltsik says. "You need to sell, and selling against Cisco is harder," he says. Plus the ISRs enjoyed the most popular launch of any Cisco product, with more than 500,000 sold in the first two years.

The Juniper plan also calls for a unified management interface for its products, as well as support services that Juniper partners will supply to help customers migrate to Juniper's branch equipment.

Over time, Juniper says it will add software modules to Junos that incorporate specific security features of ScreenOS so the J-Series routers can support a full-featured firewall and advanced security gateway functions.

For the VOIP option, Avaya says it will supply its G350 Media Gateway in three cards it has co-developed with Juniper. They plug into the Juniper routers and can support as many as 100 phones.

Collectively called IG550, the cards link local VOIP phones to IP or traditional phone networks. The phones plug into an external Ethernet switch. The VOIP capabilities also rely on a separate, centrally located corporate VOIP call server, Avaya says. The cards have the ability to fail over to public phone links if IP connections die.

Juniper branch office evolution Juniper is starting an 18-month plan to streamline network architecture in branch offices with a single router that supports VoIP, WAN acceleration and ultimately, advanced security features.

"Survivability is most important," says Frank Ahearn, CEO of McGraw Communications, a competitive local exchange carrier in New York that is basing a hosted VOIP service around Juniper routers and Avaya voice gear.

Juma Technology, the integrator that installs customer gear for McGraw's InPacket service, advised Juniper's design team in creating the J4350 and J6350. Integrating VOIP on the routing platform cuts capital costs compared with buying separate voice gear and routers, says Joseph Fuccillo, Juma's CTO.

Juniper does not have an exclusive relationship with Avaya, Nemertes' Johnson notes. That means customers who want to use another VOIP vendor can do so and still use the other features of the J-Series routers. And it leaves open the possibility that Juniper might partner with another VOIP vendor or create an open source VOIP card to integrate in the chassis, she says.

Juniper says it is working on extending its four separate element management systems for WAN acceleration, intrusion prevention, routing and VPN gear so they all can be managed from a single, enterprisewide dashboard. This will roll out over the next 12 to 18 months, Juniper says.

Juniper also is adding features of ScreenOS to Junos, so the J-Series devices can support advanced security features. This is part of an ongoing process to bring NetScreen technology into a Juniper software platform and an Intel-based hardware platform.

When Juniper has fully integrated Junos with ScreenOS,it will let customers buy the hardware and software modules that fit their needs and house them in a single integrated device, Fuccillo says.

The price of the J4350 starts at US$4,000, and the price for the J6350 starts at US$6,500.

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