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Juniper Rolls VoIP Into Routers to Cut Latency

VoIP is often thought of as technology that runs on top of routing equipment as a means for converging voice traffic onto IP networks. A new approach from Juniper Networks (NASDAQ:JNPR) is taking VoIP convergence a layer deeper, rolling VoIP and its associated security needs directly into routing gear.

Juniper's approach could potentially have a significant impact on reducing VoIP latency, which is critical to improving voice quality on a network. A recent survey from Apparent Networks found that latency was a key concern hindering enterprise VoIP rollouts.

The Juniper solution involves deploying a card called the Integrated Multiservice Gateway (IMSG) into a Juniper M or MX router for packet processing and security. According to Juniper, the IMSG could reduce latency by removing as many as four out of the five hops associated with threading a VoIP call through multiple external appliances like firewalls and switches.

By doing so, Juniper could potentially reduce as much as 80 percent of the latency caused by interchassis connectivity and processing, it said.

A key part of the IMSG is the inclusion of a session border controller (SBC) , which provides VoIP traffic control functions.

"SBCs are now distributed in the network and sit side-by-side with routers," Tom DiMicelli, senior product marketing manager at Juniper, told InternetNews.com. "There is another approach that takes the SBC and integrates it with the routing function."

DiMicelli noted that by removing devices from the network and converging services on existing routers, service providers can reduce cost and latency. He added that since the IMSG has its own processing power, VoIP services can be implemented without sharing the existing router resources, which could potentially limit network performance.

The new IMSG solution builds on Juniper's Intelligent Services Edge strategy first announced in October 2008, and which includes integrated security. With the IMSG, DiMicelli explained that a service provider now has a full security stack for VoIP as well.

"We can identity, detect and mitigate about 150 VoIP attack protocols, in addition to all the other malware that exists out in the network," DiMicelli said. "So we could screen the traffic and make sure that no application layer attack is coming to the actual VoIP service."

According to DiMicelli, it is more difficult to do full VoIP security when standalone appliances are in play since the devices are not always functionally integrated. With the IMSG, he said that if the IPS detects an attack, it can instruct the firewall to stop or block the packet flow from the network.

By converging VoIP services, overall network scalability for securing VoIP can be improved as well.

"If I had an external firewall, I would have to put all my traffic through that firewall," DiMicelli said. "In this case, I can employ the firewall to protect the specific resources that I want to protect and not impact the performance or need massive firewall capacity for all the traffic. So it's a very clean evolution that happens when you can decouple the network interface from the processing power that resides behind it."

For Juniper, the launch represents a way to continue capitalizing on the proliferation of VoIP, which today is deployed by most major service providers in the U.S. and globally. Despite its widespread use, DiMicelli sees the opportunity for continued growth in the years ahead.

"I think in terms of the raw number of VoIP subscribers versus the total number of voice subscribers, I think we're still in the early days of broad carrier-scale deployments," DiMicelli said. "We still see growth in the access market and the enterprise, and we feel there are plenty of opportunities."