Juniper unveils branch-office strategy

J-Series routers combine security, VoIP, acceleration

Enterprises have done wonders in recent years consolidating their IT operations into efficient and tightly managed datacenters. That trend has been a godsend for system administrators and IT workers, who no longer have to spend long hours on the road, in transit to far-flung branch offices to reboot servers and take care of other mundane tasks. One population that hasn’t benefitted from centralized IT operations: the poor souls who have to work in those branch offices and live at the mercy of their WAN connection. And that’s no small population. By one estimate, as much as 80 percent of employees at many companies now work outside of headquarters.

This week, Juniper Networks becomes the latest company to offer a range of new products that promise to make  enterprise branch offices more efficient, including J-Series routers with security features and the capability of supporting both VoIP and application acceleration.

WAN acceleration has become a must for networking vendors in recent years, as the trend toward centralization on enterprise networks has left branch offices at the mercy of WAN performance, said Jon Oltsik, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

Juniper’s two new J-Series platforms, the J4350 and J6350 are built on the ASIC-based SSG (Secure Services Gateway) hardware platform and run the company’s JunOS operating system. They offer firewall, NAT, and IPSec services out of the box and can scale to as fast as 2Gbps.

The boxes are built to grow, with  the capability of supporting some of the SSG’s UTM services such as Web URL filtering and anti-spam, as well as IP telephony and application acceleration, said Mike Banic, director of product marketing at Juniper.

However, those features are still a ways off. Juniper plans a three-phase rollout for the new J-Series boxes within the next 12 to 18 months. Next up is IP telephony support, with an integrated Avaya Voice Gateway and WXC (WAN Application Acceleration) for data compression and caching in the first half of 2007. After that, Juniper will add UTM features into JunOS for protection against worms, spyware, and Trojans, Banic said.

In the meantime, Juniper claims to offer better price and performance for features such as firewall, NAT, and VPN than comparable ISR (Integrated Services Router) devices from chief competitor Cisco.

As Juniper has done with Symantec on security, the company is putting its weight behind partner Avaya for IP telephony features, which the company considers “best-in-class.” 

Juniper became a top player in WAN acceleration when it bought Peribit Networks and Redline Networks last year. The new J-Series devices, built on the SSG platform, will give the company the headroom to continue to add features to the devices, Oltsik said.