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Juniper funding paying off

A networking start-up is finally ready to deliver on promised next-generation technology for the Internet backbone.

A well-financed Silicon Valley networking start-up is finally ready to deliver on promised next-generation technology for the Internet backbone.

Juniper Networks will announce the rollout tomorrow of its software code for routing traffic across the Net to several service providers, the first--and potentially most important--effort for a firm that has received nearly $65 million in funding from venture capitalists and high-technology partners.

Stocked with veteran networking and systems industry talent, Juniper is often viewed as a potential thorn in the side of networking king Cisco Systems due to the start-up's focus on improving the speed of Net traffic. Cisco is entrenched as the primary provider of equipment for the Net backbone--that is, the technology that connects multiple networks and allows data to travel through various public layouts around the globe at high speed.

A portion of the firm's funding has come from traditional rivals of Cisco, such as 3Com, Northern Telecom, and IBM.

IBM even offered Juniper access to specialized chips for speeding data across the Internet.

The software Juniper will release, called Junos, acts as the operating system for forthcoming routing hardware and is due in the second half of this year, according to chairman, president, and chief executive officer Scott Kriens.

The software is the "engine" that will drive Juniper's equipment, he said. "It is the franchise that is Juniper. It is the logical foundation of the company." Kriens is a former founder of StrataCom, which was purchased by Cisco for more than $4 billion in 1996.

The Junos package includes technology that allows the operating system to isolate application failures so the entire system does not crash; allows for sophisticated policies to be created for different types of traffic; and includes implementations for traffic engineering and quality of service. Kriens said it is optimized to let service providers have better control over their sprawling layouts.

The software has been tested in the networks of MCI Communications, Ericsson, UUNet, a division of WorldCom; @Home, and Verio since January of this year.

Junos will run on a host piece of forthcoming hardware from the company that serves as the routing mechanism. The equipment also will talk to "forwarding engine" hardware that is largely based on specialized chips to speed packets to their destination.

Torrent Networking Technologies, Argon Networks, and NetCore Systems are among other start-ups targeting the service provider backbone, hoping to reap a portion of the revenue from the exploding medium.

Although there is plenty of interest in technology from these firms, the new entrants in the networking market could suffer the same fate as others who have tried to unseat entrenched equipment providers like Cisco.

Juniper, founded in 1996, is the latest to be viewed as a competitor in elements of Cisco's business, but Kriens said the predicted growth of the Net insures enough revenue opportunities for anyone who wants to enter the market. "I guess conflict sells," he added. "There's more market than all the companies put together can serve. The irony is [Cisco] is certainly not where we are focused."

The Junos software is now available for testing by other service providers. Juniper has provided initial testers with the homegrown engine component of its forthcoming routing device and includes a temporary front-end router for packet forwarding functions.