Juniper spearheads plan to fortify 'Net

Juniper last week disclosed an ambitious plan to unite the industry around a common vision for public networking that could make the Internet secure and reliable enough for full-fledged global commerce.

Juniper last week disclosed an ambitious plan to unite the industry around a common vision for public networking that could make the Internet secure and reliable enough for full-fledged global commerce.

The company's Infranet Initiative attempts to resolve shortcomings the vendor says are inherent in the Internet: security and peak performance.

The initiative seeks to develop two interfaces - a user-to-networking interface (UNI) between customers and service providers, and a so-called intercarrier interface between service providers - that adhere to a set of interconnection standards that establish a "lowest common denominator" required for implementation.

As things stand

Today, equipment vendors and service providers can build from an array of standard and non-standard interconnection schemes that, when implemented differently, disrupt interoperability and service consistency.

When interconnecting via these two interfaces, customers and service providers would construct an "infranet" that combines the ubiquitous connectivity of the Internet with the performance and security of a private network, Juniper says. This infranet then ultimately will provide the global infrastructure required to support machine-to-machine grid computing, unlock the full potential of Web-enabled applications and finally usher in the era of the online economy, the company says.

Juniper's initiative is not unique. Scores of vendor "calls to action" have come and gone over the past 20 years, all under the guise of altruism. Most, however, turned out to be vendor-motivated and produced embarrassing admissions that the efforts petered out.

But some analysts say Juniper's effort might be significant. Although only beleaguered business partner Lucent is onboard now, analysts say Juniper partners Ericsson and Siemens might join the effort.

"It has teeth, but the teeth that it has initially are as much political as technical," says Thomas Nolle, president of consultancy CIMI. "We have to take a look at whether the current standardization process launched and controlled by the [Internet Engineering Task Force] is completely responsive to the needs of non-Internet IP applications. Then we have to say, 'Is the technology of the products compatible with these applications?'"

Collaboration needed

Juniper says the technology is here now; what's missing is collaboration in the industry on how best to implement it to achieve this application-aware/service-granular infranet.

Current peering relationships between service providers and service-level contracts between customers and service providers fall short of the Infranet Initiative goal because service assurances cannot be guaranteed across peering arrangements and certain types of traffic cannot be granted a greater level of treatment, the company says.

So Juniper is proposing "selectively open" connections between carriers - defined by common standards such as Multi-protocol Label SwitchingResource Reservation Protocol and the Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol - that "support and reward the delivery of advanced services, such as content distribution and [VPNs]" globally, vs. a carrier's own network.

Juniper did not provide a timeframe for completion of the Infranet Initiative UNI or intercarrier interface. The company also says it would welcome Cisco's participation but had not yet contacted its rival.Cisco did not immediately respond to an inquiry on its position regarding the Infranet Initiative.

Nice try

Vendor-initiated “standards” efforts that have failed, gone silent or been exposed as marketing campaigns.
1990: Open Software Foundation’s Distributed Management Environment: Vendor politics, business entanglements, resource-intensive code and redundant standards efforts killed OSF’s DME.

1994: Management Integration Consortium: Management platform vendors defected less than a year into the effort, killing MIC.

“The four biggest platform vendors . . . seem to

have effectively killed MIC. This is unfortunate.”
—Jim Herman and Mary Johnston Turner, Northeast Consulting

1995: IBM attempts to coalesce industry players around specifications for common management, but the effort is dismissed as a defensive marketing response to a Microsoft’s acquisition.

“It’s like IBM to introduce [cooperation] as a concept

while not necessarily backing it up with products.”
—John Ferreri, manager of information systems research and development, Block Drug Company

1996: Web-Based Enterprise Management: Web-based management took off, but all is quiet on the WBEM front, which turned out to be Microsoft's effort to kill Sun’s Java momentum in network management.


The Network Interoperability Alliance: IBM, Bay Networks and 3Com banded together to tackle interoperability of internet-working products. They really formed an exclusive club to bash Cisco. Cisco won.

“NIA is mostly smoke.”

—Don Miller, analyst, Dataquest

Learn more about this topic

Infranet Initiative

Juniper's proposal (in PDF).
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