Juniper Networks in an uncharacteristic move on Oct. 30 previewed its branch office strategy that calls for delivery of products that consolidate functions over the next 18 to 24 months.
In jumping on the branch-in-a-box bandwagon, Juniper hopes to establish its presence in enterprise remote sites on the strength of its newer NetScreen Secure Services Gateway hardware platforms, advanced security and application acceleration technologies.
The three-phased strategy also calls for the integration of Avaya IP Telephony functions into new branch office platforms.
The platforms will consolidate multiple functions, similar to what rival Cisco Systems has done with its Integrated Services Routers. But they will provide better functional integration, asserted Chris Spain, senior director of enterprise products at Juniper in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Most of the branch-in-a-box appliances today are "pseudo-integrated devices that share sheet metal, power supply, fans, and they have lightweight integration and unacceptable performance when you turn on multiple functions," he said.
"The performance of the box degrades below where it is useful; you pay a premium; youre still managing two separate devices sharing a power supply and you still have separate user interfaces," he added.
Juniper swept the 11 new Secure Services Gateway security models it refreshed earlier in 2006 into the strategy. Those models have integrated branch routing and Unified Threat Management.
As a part of the strategy, Juniper also launched two new branch office routers, the J4350 and J6350 J-series enterprise routers, which are based on the SSG 500-series hardware and offer better performance when security services such as stateful firewall, Network Address Translation and IPSec VPN are turned on, Spain said.
The new branch office routers run Junipers modular JUNOS operating system, include four Gigabit Ethernet ports and can be expanded with other WAN or LAN modules, and provide up to two G-bps of performance.
Compared to existing Juniper J-Series 4300 and 6300 routers, they are four to five times faster. The 4350 offers optional hardware-based acceleration and that feature is standard with the 6350.
The routers, available now, start at $4000 for the 4350 and $10,500 for the 6350.
In the second phase of its strategy, Juniper intends to add new IP Telephony modules to the new routers based on Avayas IG550 gateway and interface modules. Those are due in the first quarter of 2007.
The second phase also calls for integration of WAN optimization technologies it acquired with Peribit Networks.
To accommodate the "computationally intensive" compression and caching functions of the Juniper WXC acceleration appliance, Juniper will create a module for the new routers that includes more CPU and hard disk resources, according to Spain.
At the same time, Juniper will create a mode of operation in its JUNOS operating system that is session based, rather than packet based.
That will enable greater visibility into traffic flows to more intelligently redirect traffic.
"We will redirect only the traffic we want, so that the WXC can scale more and perform [Quality Of Service functions] and routing only where they are needed. This is good functional integration rather than sheet metal integration," said Spain.
Phase two also calls for common management that leverages multiple management tools in Junipers arsenal and makes new or upgraded products immediately manageable on release.
"Were putting infrastructure in place in host devices so the network management station doesnt have to catch up with the device being managed. For example, the new SSGs we just launched could be managed by [Junipers] NSM day one, because responsibility for being managed is shared between the host devices embedded schema and the management station," said Spain.
As a part of that plan, Juniper will evolve its NSM management tool to be the enterprise management layer for all of its enterprise-specific products.
A third phase calls for advanced security functions to be added directly into the JUNOS operating system that enables further functional integration.
Although the trend to consolidate functions into fewer devices in the branch office has been under way for some time, at least one industry watcher believes that Juniper is not late with its strategy.
"There are still lots of boxes in the branch office and the integration now is marginal. Were at the first generation [of integration]," said Jon Oltsik, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.
But how well Juniper does against rival Cisco Systems in the branch office is an open question.
"Its always difficult selling against Cisco. What Juniper needs is to go get in the game and keep out-innovating, out-performing and out-price/performing Cisco. Everyone wants a good second source. Everyone loves Cisco and their support, but they hate their price. If Juniper becomes the Avis to Ciscos Hertz, there is a tremendous amount of upside," added Oltsik.