Juniper exec: LTE is bringing the mobile market to us

Tammy Parker, FierceWirelessTech

Juniper Networks expects to make more gains in the mobile market as a direct consequence of the fact that the architecture of LTE is based on IP.

"With LTE, the market is coming to us," said Michael Marcellin, senior vice president of strategy and marketing at the maker of routing, switching and security solutions.

Marcellin shared his thoughts with me during and after the most recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The night before Marcellin and I spoke at MWC, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) Solutions and Networks CEO Rajeev Suri had shot down rumors that NSN was seeking to acquire Juniper. Instead, he said NSN "will continue to seek ways" to expand its partnership with Juniper.

The companies' current collaborations generally include Juniper's IP portfolio combined with NSN's mobile portfolio, such as its RAN and EPC products and/or NSN services, Marcellin said. He added that as networks continue shifting to LTE, "I believe that IP will continue to grow in importance and we look forward to continuing working with NSN as the market evolves."

But Juniper plays with other telco network OEMs as well. For example, Marcellin reminded me that Juniper built Ericsson's (NASDAQ:ERIC) original GGSN and now works with Ericsson on systems integration.

Juniper and IBM also have had a long-term strategic alliance, and during MWC IBM's booth featured demos of features based upon software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), with the SDN being controlled by the Juniper Contrail SDN controller.

Infonetics Research recently said that Cisco, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) and Juniper together dominated 83 percent of the global carrier router and switch revenue market during 2013. But the research firm also noted that carriers are proceeding cautiously with router and switch spending, partially because they are starting to dabble in SDN.

So it was not surprising that Juniper announced during MWC the expansion of its SDN portfolio. Marcellin said the gist of that news was that the vendor is aiming to "enable service providers to create millions of customizable services" for end users.

Virtualizing the network layer--routers, switches, firewalls--will help with "running the network hotter and smarter," Marcellin said. "We do this with our NorthStar controller and our Junos Fusion technology," he added.

Marcellin said virtualizing the services layer, on the other hand, is all about NFV. "The centerpiece of our solution there is our Contrail controller. While virtualizing the network is mainly a cost play, virtualizing services is all about agility and rapid service deployment--much more of a revenue play," he noted.

According to Marcellin, service layers 4-7 are better suited to the cloud than are layers 1-3. Those lower layers, which include functions such as deep-packet inspection, analytics, etc., usually require dedicated boxes and need to run on or close to the router/user.

Marcellin indicated surprise at how quickly service providers are moving on virtualization and cited AT&T's Domain 2.0 effort as an example. What is particularly intriguing, he said, is that some operators are considering virtualization first even where it is not quite feasible yet. This is because they all see the ultimate economic benefits that can accrue from virtualization.

However, Marcellin noted that while operators are somewhat unified when it comes to envisioning the final, virtualized destination, they do not necessarily agree on the exact path to take.

That, in fact, is what is making the telco cloud evolution so exciting. Early virtualization efforts by established players such as Juniper as well as startups entering the marketplace guarantee that wireless industry watchers will get to see lots of different approaches and plot twists over the coming years. --Tammy