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Judgment Day for Foundry Core Router

Is Foundry's attempt to unseat Cisco and Juniper in the Internet core set to flounder?

May 16, 2000

6 Min Read
Judgment Day for Foundry Core Router

Foundry Networks Inc. http://www.foundrynet.com recently announced a "Cisco killer" router for the Internet core. Now that the industry has had a few weeks to digest the news, the verdict is in: NetIron 1500 core switch router doesn't stand much of a chance.

"Foundry boxes are designed for server farms and the company has been trying to play the Internet card to raise its stock value. I just think it's dishonest," says Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. http://www.cimicorp.com an independent consultancy.

Currently, the only two products making significant headway in service provider cores are Cisco's GSR 12016, with 150 Gbit/s of capacity, and Juniper Networks' M40 -- which is a 40 Gbit/s box. Juniper recently announced the M160, which has four times the capacity of the M40 (see Juniper Sees Quadruple ).

Boasting 480 Gbit/s of capacity, Foundry says the NetIron 1500 has what it takes to win the right to be the third vendor in a two-horse race. But experts and vendors say that speed is only one part of the equation.

"When the M40 first came out it was much faster than anything Cisco had at the time," says John Stewart, marketing engineer for Juniper. "But it took more than speed to actually win accounts. We worked on our software with customers for more than a year to get it right."

Vendors and analysts agree that software is the most important aspect of routing. But Foundry says its routing software has been "baking" for more than 18 months and other Foundry layer 2/3 switches have been running routing code for almost a year.

"Routing is routing," says Marshall Eisenberg, director of product marketing for Foundry. "We've been doing multi-protocol routing longer than Juniper has even been in existence."

The truth of the matter is that Foundry may not have the experience in routing that it claims. Juniper was actually incorporated three months before Foundry back in 1996, according to S1 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission from both companies. As for the technology, competitors and some experts think that Foundry just doesn't get it.

"Routing is very different in the Internet than it is the enterprise," says Raj Mehta, senior analyst for Ryan Hankin Kent Inc. (RHK) http://www.rhk.com, a telecommunications consultancy. "The nuances of the routing code are what makes the difference."

Transforming from an enterprise switching company to a service provider vendor could be "a tough a sell," adds Mehta.

Foundry is best known for being a Gigabit Ethernet player in the enterprise, so it makes sense that the NetIron 1500 offers three times the number of Gigabit Ethernet ports than Juniper, but on the flip-side the product lags behind in optical port density, which is a huge selling point in service provider networks. While Cisco and Juniper may be the main competition right now, that won't be true in the coming months. Avici Systems, Inc. http://www.avici.comhas had a strong showing recently, winning some major accounts. Also Nexabit Networks, which was acquired by Lucent Technologies Inc. http://www.lucent.comlast year, is also rumored to have products in production.

Both these new players' products offer almost twice as many OC-12 and OC-48 ports as the NetIron 1500. As for OC-192 interfaces---Foundry won't be offering those until sometime later this year. This may be too late since Juniper already is shipping up to 8 OC-192's per M160, and Avici and Nexabit offer 15 and 16 OC-192 ports respectively on their device.

One other issue is that the NetIron 1500's first release will not offer MPLS, something that many service providers want for its traffic engineering and VPN capabilities.

Add it all up and it seems unlikely that Foundry will steal much business from players already situated in a major ISP's core. But there are a couple things on its side. For one, lower-end layer 2 and layer 3 Foundry switches are already deployed in many service provider networks.

"It's a lot easier to break into an account when you already have established some kind of relationship," says Tam Dell' Oro, founder of The Dell' Oro Group http://www.delloro.com.

The other advantage is price. While competing products from Cisco and Juniper can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, the NetIron 1500 chassis starts at $34,495 and OC-48 modules are priced around $65,000 for two ports. This low cost edge might help Foundry find a niche in smaller ISP networks.

by Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

Next page:Feedback from Foundry

From Marshall Eisenberg, Director of product marketing, Foundry Networks Inc:.

While your experts, Raj Mehta and Tom Nolle are entitled to their viewpoints, Mr. Nolle’s comment stating that we are not honest in playing the Internet card demonstrates a lack of knowledge of Foundry as a company. 60% of our revenues come from ISPs, with 7 of the top 10 ISP being Foundry customers. We have been actively involved in Internet edge routing for over 6 months and are just now using our unique distributed switching architecture to attack the Internet backbone core routing market space. Our positioning is on aggressive Packet over SONET pricing – with futures to MPLS.

The quote attributed to Mr. Eisenberg, taken out of context, draws the reader (and Ms. Reardon) into an inaccurate conclusion. He clearly stated in conversation with her that Foundry’s BGP4 code has been in existence for more than 18 months and has been shipping for the last 12 months. As well, Foundry has three years of multiprotocol routing experience (starting with the stackable NetIron released in June of 1997), which includes IP, RIP, RIP2, OSPF, PIM-SM, DVMRP, and IGMP. As well, Foundry clearly understands that there is a difference between Internet and Enterprise routing and has been working strenuously to hone our products both in software and hardware to match the expansive growth and rigorous demands of the Internet. For instance, the current release of IronWare software increases our routing capacity to scale to 2 Million BGP4 routes with 150 peers (as well as other feature enhancements to be announced). Foundry also plans on supporting MPLS towards the end of this year.

It is a given that the competitors are going to express their opinion that “Foundry doesn’t get it.” The competition routinely throws FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)’ when confronted by adversarial and competitive pressures. Other vendors do not want more competition in what they perceive to be a two horse race – they prefer to keep the business for themselves. Mr. Eisenberg and Ms. Reardon spoke about this in their telephone conversation and noted specifically that Juniper encountered exactly the same rhetoric when they first entered the Internet Routing market with Cisco articulating the same sentiments.

In closing, we experienced this type of ‘vim and vigor’ derogatory statements two years ago as we were the leading Gigabit multiprotocol Layer 3 switching vendor and had just announced our entrée into the Layer 4+ market space. Today, we are the leader in price, performance, and port count in that market (with 53% market share as confirmed by The Dell’Oro Group) along with being the performance leader in Layer 3. Our current Internet router strategy parallels that of our earlier Layer 4+ market strategy. So – can we all wait a little before passing judgment? Time and our customers will tell.

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