Juniper Back in Web Acceleration Game

Juniper Networks (NASDAQ: JNPR) is reinvigorating its WAN acceleration product portfolio with a trio of new devices the company says will offer increased speeds and more modular form factors.

The WXC 1800, WXC 2600 and WXC 3400 Juniper appliances enter a market where competition continues to accelerate with new initiatives from competitors such as Citrix (NASDAQ: CTXS), Blue Coat (NASDAQ: BCSI) and Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO). At stake is a WAN optimization market that Infonetics
Research predicts
will be worth $1.2 billion by 2010.


“These solutions are becoming more and more mission critical, and just having single-sealed units isn’t good enough for some customers,” Tim Richards, senior product manager for Juniper WAN acceleration, told InternetNews.com “So having the modularity of components and infrastructure to be able to replace power supplies and replaceable component parts makes sense.”

Richards explained that the new WXC WAN acceleration platforms are all part of Juniper’s larger companywide initiative toward a common hardware platform.

By using common components, Juniper can achieve greater efficiencies in terms of development costs.

The company aims to drive down costs as far as end users as well, since they are more easily able to repair and enhance Juniper hardware.

One area that the new WXC series will not share in common with much of the Juniper portfolio is the underlying operating system. Juniper’s base network OS that powers its routers and switching equipment is the JUNOS OS.

The WXC does not run JUNOS but instead runs the WX-OS operating system.

P>With the new hardware update, Juniper has updated WX-OS to version 5.6, which is the first major upgrade since the WX-OS 5.5 version debuted in October of last year.

“We’re on a six- to eight-month timeline on releases,” Richards commented. “To be candid the WX-OS 5.6 release is really focused around the new hardware platforms making sure drivers work. There is not really a huge amount of feature updates on that.”

When asked by InternetNews.com whether the WXC product line would be moving to the JUNOS operating system, Richards declined to get into specifics, but said,

“From our perspective, we’re not diverging from the corporate message,” Richards said. On a corporate level, Juniper has publicly stated its intention to standardize all of this hardware on JUNOS.

Next page: Competition in WAN acceleration

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Competition in WAN acceleration

Juniper’s position in the WAN acceleration marketplace has come under increasing competition in 2008. A partnership between Akamai and
Citrix

aims to jointly provide hardware and network components to end users.

Juniper already has a business partnership with Verizon Business, which pairs Juniper WXC appliances with Verizon’s network.

“Akamai’s approach to delivering services is slightly different than a Verizon, AT&T or Deutche Telekom, so they’re not direct competition,” Richards said. “I don’t think there will be an initial impact — moving forward there may be an impact.”

And with WAN acceleration vendor Blue Coat acquiring industry pioneer
Packeteer
, Juniper faces additional competition.
Blue Coast executives say Packeteer
provides enhanced application visibility.


“Application visibility is key but not necessarily critical,” Richards argued. “Generally we feel it’s a key issue but not necessarily critical to the functioning of the WAN acceleration space.”

That’s not to say that Juniper doesn’t have application visibility efforts of its own. Richards noted that Juniper is continuing to enhance its central management system to provide more information on application performance.

“There are a number of application classification capabilities through Juniper’s other products as well,” Richards said.

Blue Coat’s Bethany Mayer, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, took issue with Juniper’s view of application visibility.

“This product release focuses on an old view of the WAN optimization market, which is to accelerate everything across the WAN,” Mayer told InternetNews.com. “The customer and market requirements have changed over the last year,” she continued. “Customers are looking for solutions that enable them to gain visibility into what is going across the WAN and then to be selective in what gets accelerated. ”

Juniper used to have another product portfolio of acceleration appliances: the DX series of application-acceleration devices. In January 2008, Juniper discontinued the product. Richards noted that DX customers are still sticking with that platform as opposed to migrating to the WX product lineup.


Supporting customers

Juniper has pledged to continue to support existing customers, though no new DX products will be released.

“Many DX customers have stuck with it [DX] rather than move to WX,” Richards added. “The few that have moved, really moved to have both solutions in place because they saw the extra value with WX, but in reality they could not replace or remove the DX because its key value is in the server offload processing side.”

Richards argued that the key value to users of the DX was not as an application acceleration solution, per say, but rather as a server offload load-balancing solution.

Although the market for WAN acceleration is growing, Richards noted that key challenges to continued growth revolve around scalability and manageability of acceleration solutions.


“Although there is a lot of interest in this market, the reality is that the deployment is significantly less than the market interest,” Richards said.

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