Juniper Goes Terabit With the T640
The worst-kept secret in high-speed routing technology is finally out of the bag.
After months of anticipation Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) announced its next-generation core router, the T640, formerly referred to as "Gibson" (see Juniper Mum on Core Router... and Juniper Unveils Core Router).
First, the basics: As the name suggests, the T640 offers four times the routing capacity of the company's M160 product (which, incidentally, offers four times the capacity of the original Juniper router, the M40 -- see Juniper Sees Quadruple ). Juniper has also improved the density of the product by offering four OC192 (10 Gbit/s) ports per slot for a total of 32 OC192 ports in a half telecom rack chassis.
The product also makes a significant strategic leap forward by introducing a scaleable terabit routing architecture. Juniper officials say the T640 routers can be networked together using the high-speed optical backplane, a design that will eventually be connected into high-speed optical routing matrices using a forthcoming optical switch known as the TX. Juniper officials have not yet announced the details of the TX.
This leap in density is significant considering that Cisco’s most advanced router, the GSR 12416, offers 16 OC192 ports per chassis. For the past four years, the two companies have essentially been playing a game of leap-frog as one company jumps over the other about every 12 months with a new product announcement.
"This puts Juniper back in the driver's seat," says Steve Kamman, an analyst with CIBC World Markets.
Juniper also announced the T640's first customers, France Telecom SA, Verio Inc., the Internet2 Abilene Network and The National Science Foundation's TeraGrid Project. It also announced that WorldCom Inc. (Nasdaq: WCOM) is evaluating the product.
While most analysts and investors had known about the new router for some time before the announcement, the details of the architecture had not yet been known. The product is likely to put new heat on Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which launched its GSR 12416 last year, to detail plans for a scaleable terabit router, which it does not yet have (see Cisco Ships OC192). The product, though launched in the teeth of a telecom capital spending recession, also helps validate the need for scaleable core routers in the network, something companies like Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) and Pluris Inc. have talked about for the past three years without much success.
"We knew the product was coming," says Kamman. "But Juniper usually doesn’t launch a product until they have a customer. So it’s great to see that someone has stepped up and needed this kind of capacity."
Indeed, density seems to be key for winning customers. Doug Junkins, vice president of IP engineering for the Verio Global IP Network, says that the provider has deployed two T640s in its network and has about 10 more to deploy over the next few months. Verio had been a big M40 customer and had waited for more than a year for the new Juniper router instead of replacing its M40s with M160s. He says the main reason that Verio bought the T640 is because of its density.
"We were looking for high numbers of 10-Gbit/s and 2.5-Gbit/s interfaces," he says. "We made a conscious effort to make our M40s last, and we waited for the new one because we knew we were going to deploy more 10 Gbit/s in the second half of this year and the M160 wasn’t going to be dense enough."
Cisco is focusing on building new, denser line cards for all of its GSR routers, according to Robert Redford, vice president for marketing in the public carrier IP group.
"Our focus today is on proliferating 10-Gbit/s technology throughout the network," says Redford. "And that means that we will include denser interface cards."
Juniper has designed several new ASICs (application-specific integrated circuit) for the T640. This ASIC has fixed a widely publicized packet reordering problem that still exists in the M160 OC192 line cards. The company still uses the same Junos software used in all of the Juniper routers. This is important from a management and administrative perspective. Junkins of Verio says that his company has had to maintain two sets of IOS code to run its GSR and 7500 routers from Cisco.
On the scaleability front, carriers will be able to add capacity by connecting up to eight T640 boxes using Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs) to transmit data over inexpensive optical fiber with a separate optical switch, the TX.
Companies like Pluris and Avici have been talking about scaling routers in this way for the past four or five years. So far, Avici’s TSR core router has only announced two customers -- AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) and Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q). Pluris, which hasn’t shipped a product for commercial deployment, is supposedly in trials with Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT) and Qwest (see Pluris CEO Bolts). Pluris also uses an optical backplane to connect its multiple boxes. Avici uses copper cabling, which is limited in its speed and its transmission distances.
"An announcement from Juniper in this area certainly validates the market," says Steve Kaufman, president and chief executive officer of Avici. "There is an obvious need for scaleable, reliable routers."
But the question seems to be: When? Cisco hasn’t yet announced plans for a scaleable router, but it is clear that the company is working on something, and some analysts say they expect to see an announcement by the end of the year.
"At some point we will need to scale the products," says Robert Redford vice president of marketing for public carrier IP group at Cisco . "But the question is: Where is the investment today?"
Verio’s Junkins agrees. He says his company won’t be considering scaling the T640 for at least two more years.
That -- and the fact that the telecom slump has slowed down technology deployments -- gives Cisco plenty of time to deliver its own terabit routing strategy.
As for Wall Street, the T640 is expected to have only a minor impact on revenues this quarter and likely won't ramp up in sales until the end of this year.
— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading