For a market that was supposedly flattening out for the time being, enterprise routing sure seems to be quite active lately.
Aside from the major news of Nortel declaring bankruptcy this week, we've also seen some innovative new system-integration efforts aimed at the dual benefits of improved network performance and lower costs, plus some intriguing rumors about a potentially significant new entrant into the market.
Tech news first: Cisco and Infoblox have teamed up to install core network services such as DNS, DHCP, HTTP and a host of others into Cisco routers, effectively driving those services out to the edge where they can be more easily reached by branch offices. The companies intend to load the services onto blades using Infoblox' vNIOS Virtual Appliance and then install the blades into the router under Cisco's Application eXtension Platform. Not only does the plan eliminate the need for dedicated service routers, but it also improves the notoriously difficult process of getting services like DNS out to the branch.
Developments like that are probably catching the eyes of the tinkerers at Google, if the rumor mill proves to be accurate. Word on the street is that Google is growing tired of using Juniper routers for its massive network needs and is looking to develop one of its own. Even though Juniper makes world-class hardware in the J and M series routers, there have been some grumblings over the JUNOS operating system, namely that it is too complex and unwieldy for the dynamic networking needs of the future. Of course, show me an operating system that hasn't been criticized for not meeting the needs of its customers (yes, sit down all of you Linux folks, but open source comes with its own set of problems).
Meanwhile, the clink of champagne glasses can probably be heard in Juniper's executive offices right about now, despite whatever Google has up its sleeve. That's because Juniper appears to be the chief beneficiary of Nortel's demise. The company smelled blood in the water more than a month ago and launched a concerted effort to pinch Nortel's sales channels, giving it the inside track now that those resellers and integrators are looking for someone to take up the slack. Oppenheimer analyst Ittai Kidron thinks that drawing just 6 percent of Nortel's business would boost Juniper's revenue some 16 percent.
All of this activity points to the fact that the infrastructure is a crucial component of the oncoming cloud environment, in which success will be measured on your ability to get data where it needs go. Not bad for a boring old device like the router.