Juniper's IPTV Pipe Dream

by Sean Michael Kerner

What will it take for IPTV to become a reality? Juniper thinks that it has part of the solution.

Turning a "triple play" need not necessarily be a pipe dream for network operators.

Juniper Networks is rolling out two new product enhancements that it claims will improve the efficiency, reliability and scalability of operator networks for triple play, and specifically IPTV, content services.

The Dynamic Bandwidth Allocation feature for Juniper's E-series Broadband Services Router allows for bandwidth to be flexibly distributed to individual content subscribers.

Juniper's Service Deployment System (SDX) is also being enhanced for IPTV and triple-play services with a new Network Resource Manager feature. SDX is a customizable application that enables service providers to create and deploy IP services.

The Network Resource Manager addition executes Call Admission Controller (CAC) on a per-video-session request basis, which is supposed to give subscribers the right amount of bandwidth based on the specified quality of service requirements.

In conjunction with Juniper's Broadband Services routers, Label Switched Paths (LSPs) are created on the fly by the Network Resource Manager, which automatically assigns bandwidth from the content source to the network edge based on utilization. The LSPs can be transparently re-routed to a secondary video source in the event of an outage.

Juniper's new feature rollout is all part of an effort to help service providers overcome the barriers to IPTV adoption and triple-play service rollout.

Dave Boland senior manager of next-generation solutions at Juniper, explained that there are quite a few obstacles that service providers face when rolling out triple play services. They range from acquiring the television and video content to reducing the local loop distances to choosing the right set-top box.

Boland noted that one of the principal challenges is the ability to provide enough bandwidth per subscriber to reliably deliver high-bandwidth multiple services. He also said controlling the cost associated with triple play roll outs in order to keep acquisition costs per subscriber as low as possible is also a challenge.

In Boland's view, legacy Broadband Remote Access Server (BRAS) router platforms only offer limited quality of service and were designed for DSL Internet access only.

"A newer generation of broadband routing platforms with features specifically designed for rolling out triple play services is required," Boland told internetnews.com. "The features announced today enable providers to ensure the QoS of multiple offerings, even in times of network congestion."

Juniper isn't the only vendor that recognizes that network operators need new platforms to enable IPTV.

Alcatel, Cisco and Redback are among those that are also active in the space, though Boland thinks that Juniper's approach has a particular advantage.

"Juniper believes that because video content comes from multiple sources, the infrastructure needs to be designed to provide a quality user experience independent of the source," Boland explained. "This approach, contrary to our competitors', avoids costly overlay/parallel delivery networks."

In Boland's view other "multi-edge" network architectures like those from Alcatel are actually separate overlay networks, which are inefficient because bandwidth cannot be dynamically allocated between routers and services.

Other router vendors, such as Cisco and Redback, don't deliver the advanced bandwidth allocation features or the scale of Juniper's E320 router, according to Boland.

"If interactive broadband services are the way in the future, then it is critical that the network is architected to support them in a way that enables service providers to attract and retain customers and increase revenues," Boland said.

This article was originally published on Tuesday Nov 8th 2005