Juniper’s MINT offers profitable data

Juniper Networks Inc. is set to unveil a plan designed to let service providers profitably address underserved markets without commoditizing their offerings.

Supporting the framework are several new products Juniper will roll out later this month and early next year.

Juniper’s concept is called the Modelfor Integrated Network Transformation (MINT). MINT attempts to let service providers address large and niche markets by scaling their offerings to appeal to consumers, low-end businesses, and mid- to high-end businesses.

But with scale comes commodity pricing and lack of profits. So MINT also proposes a model whereby service providers generate profit through service customization and added value as they scale their services to address markets that are untapped or underaddressed.

“We want it to be a framework for the industry,” says Christine Heckart, vice president of marketing for Juniper. Heckart says MINT applies techniques considered “best practices” for voice within the data network industry.

Juniper says it would like MINT to create demand for Juniper products by demonstrating how service providers can derive profitability from data services, especially IP services. Research firm RHK Inc. in August showed that while Internet traffic grows at an annual rate of 100 per cent, revenue grows at only 17 per cent.

The MINT framework encompasses basic transport and connectivity at its foundation, and policy and control at its peak. In between are resource segmentation and packet processing. The layers of MINT are interdependent.

The transport and connectivity layer, naturally, encompasses Juniper’s edge and core IP routers. The resource segmentation layer suggests creation of a service independent resource pool by using Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) to partition ATM, frame relay, private line, voice, IP and public Internet assets into virtual overlays.

The IP overlays would support the scale to address lucrative underserved markets, Juniper says, while the consolidated overlays – ATM/frame, private, voice and others – would collapse “conventional” services for more mainstream markets.

The packet-processing layer would filter, prioritize, encrypt and classify packets according to user need, and the policy and control layer would map users to customized services and to back-office accounting and billing applications. For example, a user request for on-demand video would activate increased bandwidth and packet priority, Juniper says, while generating the associated billing records.

Products associated with the MINT framework include:

*A second generation of ATM physical interface cards (PIC) for Juniper M-series and T-series routers, and IPv6 capabilities for the vendor’s ERX edge router.

*IPv6 VPN and transparent LAN support on the routers.

*New PICs with a processor dedicated to packet queuing.

*Integration of third-party operations support system applications with Juniper’s SDX policy manager.

The so-called ATM2 PICs include one- and two-port OC-12 and two-port OC-3 interfaces. They perform per virtual circuit/virtual path shaping and rate limiting, queuing and classification features such as weighted round robin and random early discard, and Layer 2 to Layer 3 priority mapping across MPLS backbones.

The IPv6 addition to the ERX router supports Version 3 of Open Shortest Path First protocol. Juniper already has IPv6 support for Border Gateway Protocol and Intermediate System-to-Intermediate System routing protocol.

Transparent LAN capabilities will emerge next year in Juniper routers to support Layer 2 virtual private line service offerings from carriers.

The PICs with the new Q-series queuing processor include one-port channelized OC-12, 10-port channelized E-1 and four-port channelized DS-3 to emerge in the first quarter of 2003; and Gigabit Ethernet at a future date.

Heckart acknowledges that MINT will be one of several service provider profitability frameworks to emerge from a handful of vendors. Cisco Systems Inc. already has articulated its desire to take service providers beyond commodity connectivity and into value-added services.

She says that there’s “still a lot of work to do” with regard to integration of non-Juniper products into MINT. Yet, she says that implementing even one of four operational layers of MINT will be a “leap” from where service providers are today in deriving profitability from data services.

Analysts say Juniper might be best served by focusing on its internal product-line integration. Juniper has yet to say how it plans meld the Unisphere Networks Inc. edge routers acquired last May – and upon which much of MINT relies – cohesively with its M-series and T-series routers.

“Juniper needs to address in more detail how it plans to reconcile the ERX series with the M-series, since rivals will accent the emerging overlap between the two lines to sow confusion about the Juniper IP service edge proposition,” said Ron Westfall, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc., in a recent report.