Juniper Shrinks Its SuperCore Router

Juniper introduces the T320, the entry box into the T-series. Could this be the reason Unisphere's MRX got canned?

July 30, 2002

5 Min Read
Juniper Shrinks Its SuperCore Router

Finally, Juniper Networks Inc.’s (Nasdaq: JNPR) scotching of Unisphere Networks’s MRX multiservice switch/router makes sense.

Today, Juniper announced its own 320-Mbit/s multiservice IP router, the T320 (see Juniper Unveils T320). The new router based on Juniper’s T-series is a smaller version of its T640 scaleable router that was announced last spring (see Juniper Goes Terabit With the T640). But this new “mini-me” isn’t scaleable.

Juniper admits that the MRX, which used technology leveraged from Unisphere’s defunct core routing project, and the new T320 look similar. But Kevin Dillon, director of product marketing at Juniper says that killing the MRX, which was announced on the company’s second-quarter conference call earlier this month, was not directly tied to the launch of the T320 (see Juniper Numbers Raise Questions).

“The MRX had significant overlap in high-capacity and multiservice routing not just with the T-series, but also the M-series,” he says. “Its cancellation had more to do with the entire portfolio and the fact that it hadn’t been widely deployed yet.”The new T320 router supports half the capacity of its big brother the T640 and is double the capacity of Juniper’s aging core platform, the M160. The addition of the T320 makes sense, since it fills a significant gap between the T-series, which can scale to terabits worth of capacity, and the limited M160.

The M160 is a hot seller for Juniper, consistently making up to roughly 50 percent of the company’s revenues over the last few quarters, but customers are finding that they need more capacity. Only a few very large carriers, though, need the capacity of a T640 today. Most service providers won’t need to scale to terabits or even 640 Gbit/s worth of capacity for at least a couple of years, say experts. But, while 640 Gbit/s may be too much, 160 Gbit/s is too little.

“It looks to me like the T320 is a replacement for the M160,” says Stephen Kamman, an analyst with CIBC World Markets. “This should allow Juniper customers to retire the M160 without forcing them to jump all the way to the T640 scaleable solution.”

Juniper isn’t touting the T320 as an M-series replacement. Instead, the company is marketing it as an entry point into the T-series. The new router uses all the same hardware and software that is found in the T640, including the third-generation silicon and the Junos operating system. In addition, it offers lower-speed interfaces that aren’t available on the T640, like channelized OC3 (155 Mbit/s), OC 12 (622 Mbit/s), and Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

But unlike the routers in Juniper’s older M-series, which also use Junos, the T320 also supports higher-speed line cards used in the T640. Juniper has also shrunk the form factor of the T320. The new router fits in one third of a 7-foot telecom rack, while the T640 is a half rack unit. But because the T320 only supports two physical interface cards (PICs) per line card as opposed to the four PICs on a T640, the T640 actually offers better density on a per-rack basis. The T320 supports 48 OC192 (10 Gbit/s) and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet interfaces or 192 OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s) interfaces in a single rack. The T640 supports 64 OC192 and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet or 256 OC48 interfaces per rack.

Still, the T320 is extremely competitive with market leader Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). Its GSR 12416, the biggest box Cisco currently has available, supports 320 Gbit/s worth of capacity in one full rack. And it handles 14 OC192 and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet interfaces or 56 OC48 interfaces.

And because the T320 is using the same silicon and technology used in the T640 line cards, it won’t have the packet reordering problem that has been noted on the OC192 interfaces in the M160.

Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7), which was actually the first company to have scaleable routers commercially available, took the same approach to rolling out its product line. It introduced the large TSR first and then rolled out the smaller SSR to target smaller service providers (see Avici Intros Tiny TSR).

There is one big difference between the T320 and the T640. As noted, the T320 is not designed as a scaleable router. It isn’t able to hook into the TX optical matrix. There are a few theories as to why Juniper chose to do this. For one, it probably would have made the router too expensive for the T320’s targeted applications. Secondly, it may have precluded the engineering team from making it compact in size. And thirdly, Juniper is in the business of selling more boxes. If it made a smaller scaleable solution, it’s likely that customers wouldn’t buy the big T640 when they needed more capacity. Instead they’d simply hook two T320s together.

“The demand for scaleability is really only in the super core of the Internet,” says Kamman. “Besides, by the time the smaller providers using the T320 would need to scale up, they’d be looking for a next-generation box anyway.”

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.comWant to know more? The big cheeses of the optical networking industry will be discussing this very topic at Opticon 2002, Light Reading’s annual conference, being held in San Jose, California, August 19-22. Check it out at Opticon 2002.

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