In today's IP data networks, the only way to truly control the end-to-end experience is to own all of the communications links and equipment. That is not practical nor probable for applications that need to run in a globally connected environment. While the Internet has provided a global public data infrastructure, it becomes problematic with packets traversing the public Internet, and in particular from one provider's network to another. Due to the intricacies of varied equipment, management, quality of service attributes, and interpretation of the standards, an assured experience cannot be guaranteed.
Juniper Networks together with Lucent Technologies recently announced the "Infranet Initiative" (Infranet is a combination of "infrastructure" and "network"), an industry call to action for collaboration in the definition and realization of a cost-effective, secure and predictable IP network infrastructure. The Infranet vision is for networks to combine the global connectivity of the Internet with the assured performance and security of private networking. The goal is to develop an open network of true any-to-any services for content distribution, voice and video, as well as VPN services for enterprise networks.
The Infranet Initiative Council (see www.infranet.org) has been established to drive the definition and deployment of Infranet. The Infranet Initiative Council is a cross-section of industry leaders from IT and telecoms including service providers, system integrators, software developers and infrastructure vendors. The Infranet Council's goal is to create a common reference architecture for the Infranet.
I recently spoke with Kevin Dillon of Juniper Networks about the council's plans and Juniper's involvement. "The goal is to bring all parties together in as open a way as possible to reach the largest community possible," said Dillon. While the Internet today provides near-ubiquitous connectivity, some services still demand separate single-purpose networks (i.e. voice, mobile, Frame Relay and ATM). This provides poor capital and operational efficiency and is not sustainable.
In contrast to the Internet, the Infranet will support all services. To do this, the Infranet Council has to resolve the Internet's current security and performance issues to create assured networking. Assured networking is analogous to the quality of roads from state to state. The goal is to provide consistent quality, security and performance, no matter who's delivering the Internet connectivity.
The Infranet Council was conceived during meetings at Telecom Geneva. The first formal Infranet Council meeting will be held just prior to Supercomm in June 2004. There are a number of members of the council who are interested in formulating answers and submitting them to standards bodies for adoption. These submissions will address the mechanisms that underlie the packet paths and handoffs from the client to the network and from one network to another. Their work will address IP as well as networking with ATM and other legacy protocols. One key goal behind this effort is to eliminate the dilution of industry energies. Companies coming together to pool their resources and focus on a single-standard oriented set of mechanisms eliminates duplication of efforts with multiple approaches.
Both residential and corporate end-users are expected to be the recipients of the gains realized through the council's effort. With the ability to use any application on the network and know it will respond with security, reliability, and appropriate prioritization, the end result will overcome the barriers faced when running business applications over the Internet. Service providers will benefit by improving the value of their offerings and reducing their cost base, while vendors will have a single set of standards to deliver.
Security is a key addition to IP networking to create the Infranet. Another critical capability of the Infranet is the performance and reliability to handle voice. Voice is an important application for both Juniper and the service providers that use their infrastructure. Today, Juniper's platforms carry voice packets for a variety of providers. Prioritization and traffic management is built into the platforms, and Juniper has resolved the challenges in being able to carry this time sensitive traffic securely, at the proper priority and with low latency.
Some of the other members on the council at the time of this writing include Oracle, Siemens, BT, Ericsson, Lucent Technologies, Orange and Polycom. One can quickly see that this is a consolidated industry effort to make our applications and data securely accessible. The challenges will be to for varied service providers to agree on the technicalities, protocols and services as packets are handed off from one network to another regardless of whether the packet is data, voice, video, or some combination.
Carrie has been involved in the computing and networking industries for nearly 20 years. She has worked with manufacturing firms, medical institutions, casinos, healthcare providers, cable and wireless providers and a wide variety of other industries in both networking design/implementation, project management and software development for privately held consulting firms and most recently Network and Software Solutions.
Carrie currently works with The Siemon Company where her responsibilities include providing liaison services to electronic manufacturers to assure that there is harmony between the active electronics and existing and future cabling infrastructures. She participates with the IEEE, TIA and various consortiums for standards acceptance and works to further educate the end user community on the importance of a quality infrastructure. Carrie currently holds an RCDD/LAN Specialist from BICSI, MCNE from Novell and several other certifications.