Juniper: Redundant routers here to stay

IP routing will never be so reliable that carriers can eliminate redundant routers, according to the founder and CTO of Juniper Networks Inc.

Speaking at the company’s first worldwide analyst conference in Sunnyvale, Calif., on Wednesday, Juniper CTO Pradeep Sindhu said the elimination of redundant routers “is not a feasible thing to achieve” despite Juniper’s claims of having a highly resilient, “nonstop routing” operating system, and recent announcements from competitors that it can indeed be done.

“The bulk of complexity in a router lives in software,” Sindhu said. “Software is complex, you cannot anticipate all of the failure situations. Technologically, we don’t know how to do this. We can only build modular software so the failure is contained as much as possible. Technologically, we are not in a position to say we can build machines that are so reliable they will not go down.”

Juniper claims it’s been performing fault-tolerant, “nonstop routing” in its JUNOS operating system for over a year, even though competitors Alcatel SA, Avici Systems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. have just recently announced their plans for fault-tolerant routing. The intent behind fault-tolerant routing is to make IP as reliable as the telephone network for multiservice – voice, video and data – operation.

Telephony carriers usually do not need to install separate, stand-alone gear to back up primary voice networking systems.

Avici is one Juniper competitor that disagrees with Sindhu’s views. Avici earlier this week announced its IPriori NSR technique, which is specifcally designed to eliminate to need to purchase, install, operate and maintain a redundant router in case of failure in the primary router.

Caspian Networks Inc. is another core router vendor that disagrees. The start-up is developing a “super” core router based on the principles of supercomputer multiprocessing that’s intended to be as reliable as telephony switches and cross-connects, thereby eliminating the need for a redundant routing system.

“Juniper is a smart company,” says Faizel Lakhani, vice president of network solutions at Caspian. “But I was taught a long time ago by some smart people to never say never. It may be impossible for Juniper. If they started from scratch today they could do it. You can’t bolt reliability onto the side, it’s got to be built in from the ground up.”

IP routing that’s reached the single system state of reliability is one to two years away, Lakhani says. Caspian’s router is expected to have shipped into a production network by this fall.

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