Juniper Ramps Up Networking Research

Understanding the difference between the capabilities of photons and electrons for data transmission is part of Juniper's goal for technology innovation and expansion.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Feb 24, 2010
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When it comes to moving data around a network, one cannot defy the laws of physics. Yet there are two sets of physics laws often at play as data traverses network infrastructure by way of both photons and electrons. During Juniper Networks' annual presentation to financial analysts this week, executives explained how they aim to use the laws of physics to improve network efficiency.

But it won't be relying just on particle physics to grow its business: Executives also revealed how they plan to use new investments and partnerships to help drive Juniper's vision of high-speed networking forward as well.

"Electrons and photons live in different worlds, and the fundamental laws of physics tell us their capabilities are different," Juniper (NASDAQ: JNPR) founder and CTO Pradeep Sindhu said during the analyst event. "It's not about Juniper: It's about what is and what is not possible."

Sindhu explained that unlike electrons, photons don't interact with each other, and as a result, photons can pass each other on an optical fiber without colliding. According to Sindhu, that means that photons are good for transmitting data over long distances while electrons are best suited for things like switching and packet forwarding. Moving from protons to electrons takes a transceiver, and that's where one of the sector's major challenges lies.

"This is one of the biggest problems from keeping industry from going faster," Sindhu said. "We need better and cheaper optical transceivers."

According to Sindhu, the transceiver represents most of the cost of Optical Transport Network (OTN) switches. The goal for Juniper moving forward is to use its Junos Space software platform to help make the overall management of both the optical and IP network easier. Sindhu also noted that Juniper is pushing MPLS as a streamlined approach for handling traffic in the core network.

Certainly, Juniper's not alone in working toward a goal of more effectively converging optical and IP. Rival Alcatel-Lucent is also deeply invested in the area with its own set of initiatives, for instance.

At the same time, Juniper is also ramping its efforts to further networking innovation by way of a pair of new efforts. This week, the company announced a $50 million venture fund to help develop startups to build technologies that can build on and enhance Juniper's Junos software platform.

Additionally, Sindhu announced the creation of an incubation lab within Juniper. The general idea behind the lab is to be able to more quickly bring multiple projects to fruition. The initial goal is to have five or six project under incubation that have the potential to develop disruptive technologies that will make a significant impact on networking, Juniper said.

In addition to help innovation by funding it or creating it in-house, Juniper is also partnering to help fuel innovation. In particular, Juniper this week announced that it would be licensing IBM Tivoli's Netcool service management software. The Netcool software will be integrated into the new Junos Space Fault Suite set to debut in the third quarter of 2010. With the addition, Juniper will be able to position the Fault Suite as providing a complete fault and network management solution.

Juniper's OEMing of IBM's Netcool marks an expansion of the relationship between the two vendors. Currently IBM OEMs Juniper's networking gear.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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