I've taken heat in the past for writing about network "god boxes" (author's note: historic industry term, not mine) so let's just agree to refer to said systems as "super boxes." Just what is a super box? A honkin' big system that combines processing and network I/O capabilities. These systems were pure vision in the past, but a modern combination of cheap processors, global software development talent, and stable scalable operating systems makes them a reality today.
When I think of these network super boxes, I think of vendors like A10 Networks, Crossbeam, and F5. After its recent announcement, I'm also adding Juniper Networks to my list. On Monday, Juniper announced a new super box dubbed the SRX-series Services Gateway. Aimed at network security for now, this chassis-based system is built for extremely high-performance networks that will soon run at 40 gigabits per second or 100Gbps.
Just what does it do? The SRX throws a ton of processors and I/O ports providing networking functions (i.e., switching, routing, prioritization, traffic management, etc.) with security functions (i.e., firewalling, intrusion detection/prevention, content security) in a single frame. As such, it can replace lots of today's dinky appliances that can't keep up and cost a ton to run. One super box means lots of horsepower, scale, and carrier-class features.
Essentially, super boxes like the SRX will become the mainframe of the network. Yes, I know that it is taboo to compare modern computing architectures to the mainframe, but mainframes were once the jack-of-all-trades in the data center. Super boxes have the potential to perform a similar function by becoming the hub of critical network services.
As for Juniper, it is once again flexing its high-performance muscle. With Internet bandwidth growing over 50 percent last year, Juniper should turn a few service provider and enterprise heads with its latest super box.