Juniper Networks acquisitions in 2005 of Peribit Networks and Redline Networks signaled an intention to become a bigger player in the WAN optimization and application acceleration space. But the company has done little since to share with enterprise customers its vision for those technologies.
That relative silence will end on May 1 at the Interop conference in Las Vegas, where Juniper will lay out an 18-month roadmap and introduce the next major release of its Central Management Software for the WX line of WAN optimization appliances.
The moves highlight the growing importance of the WAN optimization and application acceleration sector, which is seeing an increase in the size of deployments.
Juniper rivals Citrix Systems and Coyote Point Systems also will use Interop to introduce products aimed at meeting that growing demand.
As one of the major players in the fast growing market, Junipers signaling of its plans should help its enterprise growth ambitions.
"Juniper only announces [products] when theyre shipping," said Joe Skorupa, an analyst at Gartner, in Fremont, Calif.
"You can do that with service providers because you can tell them your plans. When youre trying to get to 10,000 enterprise customers, you have to go public with your plans before you deliver a year ahead. Theyre finally willing to do what they should have done a year ago."
The WX CMS 5.2 release acknowledges the next phase in the growth of the market, where enterprises deploy hundreds—rather than a handful—of WAN optimization appliances and where service providers begin to put in managed WAN optimization services.
"In 2005 people were doing bakeoffs and solving [specific] pain points," said analyst Robert Whiteley at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.
Now "new folks are streaming into this market and existing customers are scaling their deployments. Service providers are looking to add services, but it will take 12 to 18 months to [prepare such services]. In late 07, well see a lot of managed services."
To accommodate both, the WX CMS 5.2 software adds role-based views and access control by leveraging Microsofts Active Directory.
For example, service providers could set up a monitor-only view of a specific service for a customer, or create a network operations center view.
At the same time, CMS 5.2 allows reports to be delivered as PDFs into the e-mail inbox of CIOs and executives showing how the WAN has been optimized, and includes a new acceleration summary report that combines data on how applications traffic is optimized across several WAN links.
"They really expanded the user management for CMS. They extended my ability to create user accounts for my clients and give them the access privileges that we need," said Mike Journey, telehealth systems manager at General Communications, Alaskas largest communications provider, based in Anchorage.
GCI uses the WX WAN accelerators to boost the performance of the satellite links it uses to connect remote villages.
New trend reports in version 5.2 also allow for capacity planning and resource optimization. The reports show WAN throughput, application volume, latency, loss and quality of traffic class.
Junipers roadmap calls for adding the ability to accelerate SSL-encrypted flows to speed Web applications and add Web content caching at the branch as well as the data center.
SSL encrypted traffic cant be accelerated because the appliances cant see into the packets to accelerate them. The WX will become a part of the trust model, allowing it to decrypt the packet and then apply compression, protocol acceleration, bandwidth management and enable performance reporting, according to Juniper officials.
Juniper also intends to develop a software-only client for the WX line to bring the benefits of acceleration to individual users.
Mobile workers and telecommuters will be able to download the WX agent dynamically to accelerate the applications they would be accessing in the data center.
Junipers strategy also calls for a new high-end hardware platform capable of supporting OC-3 WAN data rates in the data center. With the advent of larger deployments, several WAN optimization and application acceleration providers are adding new high-end hardware platforms.
Citrix Systems, with its NetScaler appliance, will introduce at Interop a new hardware platform capable of providing up to 6G bps of throughput and 8 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, and supporting 30,000 SSL transactions per second.
Meanwhile, Coyote Point Systems will introduce a new enterprise-class server load balancing and traffic management system that provides 20 Gigabit Ethernet ports and can handle 100,000 connections per second.
The broader applications coverage and streamlining of deployments will make it easier for WX appliance users at Ghafari Associates to continue down its server consolidation path without increasing WAN costs or causing a productivity hits for remote users, said Robert Bell, director of IT at the Dearborn, Mich., architectural engineering firm.
And that makes the appliances both tactical and strategic, he said.
Forresters Whiteley said Junipers moves make sense. "They do need to get their enterprise strategy hammered out, so they stop looking like a $600 million vendor trapped in a $2 billion vendors body," he said.