• United States
IDG Enterprise Consulting Director

An introduction to the Infranet Initiative

Jun 04, 20046 mins
Data Center

This week’s edition is a bit of a grab bag, a collection of items I’ve been meaning to present to you over the past few weeks. I hope you’ll find them interesting, if not magical.

One man’s magic is another man’s engineering. Supernatural is a null word.

Robert Heinlein

Dear Vorticians,

This week’s edition is a bit of a grab bag, a collection of items I’ve been meaning to present to you over the past few weeks. I hope you’ll find them interesting, if not magical.

All of them relate to our discussion on the role of service providers (telcos, etc.) in the emerging extended-enterprise economy. Shortly after my first piece on the challenges facing service providers, I met with folks at Juniper Networks regarding a new organization that Juniper has helped to create. If you’re heading to Supercomm in Chicago in a couple of weeks, you’ll be hearing more about this “Infranet Initiative”.

In a nutshell, the Infranet Initiative aims to transform the role of service providers by, in the group’s own words, “creating a new architecture that is more predictable, reliable, and secure — and capable of supporting a broader set of applications than is possible on today’s Internet. The Infranet Initiative is an industry call to action to create public networks that combine the reach of the Internet with the assured performance and security of a private network. This new approach is designed to overcome the current limitations of the Internet through the creation of ‘infranets,’ delivering an enriched experience for consumers, business-critical performance, and opening new markets for service providers.”

In the vision of the Infranet founders, the service provider could become the key link between diverse companies in a business ecosystem, a central repository for application services and other enabling capabilities. Already, the Infranet Initiative is supported by AOL, BT, Deutsche Telecom, Ericsson, Lucent, Oracle, Orange, Qwest, Seimens, Polycom and Telenor, along with Juniper. I’m told the group will be announcing additional, high-profile members at Supercomm, where the Infranet Initiative will hold its first formal meeting.

Go to to read more, including a white paper on the infranet concept written by Tom Nolle, who’s spoken at VORTEX on a couple of occasions. There’s also a useful FAQ that will deal with, yes, frequently asked questions. (Though I’ll bet some of them aren’t asked all that frequently.)

I also wanted to share this letter on a related theme from Vortician Steve Schick of Redback Networks.

“John, longtime reader, first-time writer, if I can borrow from the late night radio world. 

“I think we will see some dramatic changes in the telecom industry. The old business of transport and connection will change. For the first time in a one-hundred-year history, the phone companies are dealing with a decline in the number of voice lines. Voice over IP is becoming a force to be reckoned with, and we are on the verge of seeing major changes in the delivery of entertainment.

“At the same time, the number of net additions for broadband subscriptions continues to grow dramatically. It’s the only market I know where industry analysts and market trackers have to revise their estimates upward because reality has outpaced their projections. Broadband, too, is even becoming a political issue, much like the initiatives for federal freeways and highways some half a century ago. The U.S. is tremendously behind most of the world on this front. 

“Right now, the Internet works as a simple connectivity mechanism. There is a lot of beauty in that and it’s been a powerful force. The Internet has fundamentally changed so many things from the way I communicate (e-mail) to the way I purchase things, get information, acquire music and even receive video. I can even ask for driving directions without maligning my status as a man.

“But the Internet will be transformed from simple connectivity to an intelligent, personal delivery system. Nice marketing words that have an all-to-familiar ring to them? Consider: a) the Internet is still in a relative infancy; b) The Internet is becoming increasingly consumer-dominated; soon consumers will overtake businesses on the Internet in terms of number of subscribers and bandwidth consumed; c) entertainment still revolves around the content provider and its schedule, rather than the viewer; d) consumers are starting to demand quality (do I really want to watch video in a postage stamp-sized window on my PC?); e) the Internet must deliver content and connectivity to consumers across a range of portable platforms; f) there is a growing need for in-band or out-of-band signaling to better direct traffic, provide quality, enforce security and ease navigation. 

As these major changes begin to precipitate, the telcos face challenges and opportunities. Most are seriously evaluating a next-generation approach to how they will use broadband to meet these challenges and opportunities.  Bits are bits, but there can be grand differences in the way they are delivered. It is this process of delivery that gives the service provider differentiation, revenue from value-added services and the ability to take a bigger slice of the Internet ‘pie’ through creating new revenue streams from content providers and aggregators.”

Thanks, Steve – Redback maybe should get together with those Infranet folks.

Those two thoughts lead me to my VORTEX ’04 update for this week. As you know from previous notes, Geoffrey Moore and I are bringing the gorilla companies to VORTEX to explore their evolving strategies for the enterprise, along with the opportunities and conflicts those plans will create. But we’ll also be examining this issue of service providers and their role in the extended enterprise.

To that end, I’m thrilled that Juniper CEO Scott Kriens will be giving a special presentation outlining his views on what telecom companies need to do to stay relevant and successful in the era of Web-enabled applications. We’ve asked Scott to provide a roadmap for telcos and to speak frankly about the challenges they’ll have to overcome.

For more on VORTEX ’04, including information on how to register, go to

Bye for now. As always, you can reach me at