Juniper Networks Inc. says it's preparing for the software-defined networking (SDN) age with a new programmable core switch, but the arrival of the EX9200 creates potential awkwardness as the company tries to sell multiple core-switching options.
That's because the EX9200 is not compatible with the EX8200 (Juniper's previous core switch) nor with the rest of the portfolio. The tradeoff was necessary in order to gain the massive programmability of the EX9200, says Dhritiman Dasgupta, Juniper's senior director of product marketing.
Network World broke the story of the EX9200 earlier this week. Juniper says the EX9200, based on a new Juniper ASIC, will start shipping any day now -- early April at the latest -- with 10Gbit/s and 40Gbit/s support. Cards for 100Gbit/s will come later in the year.
As one indication of the new switch's size, the largest of the EX9200s can handle 32,000 virtual LANs, which could be an important factor in supporting multitenancy in virtualized data centers, Dasgupta says.
The new direction that the switch represents is programmability. As SDN develops, more and more protocols are coming into play. VXLAN from VMware Inc. and NVGRE from Microsoft Corp. would be two examples, both being protocols for moving virtual machines around the network.
Juniper now says the EX8200 is positioned for smaller enterprises and campus networks, or for data centers that are merged with a campus network. It's not designed for 100Gbit/s, Dasgupta says, and it's not made to be highly programmable.
The EX9200, by contrast, is meant for combining multiple network functions -- aggregation with core switching, for example -- and for handling the core of the future, SDN-heavy data center. The trick is it's still not clear what that future is going to look like, because new protocols keep emerging.
"SDN is going to introduce tons and tons of new protocols. With any other vendor, customers would have to rip and replace an existing switch to adapt to a new four- or five-letter acronym," Dasgupta says.
The core-switching portfolio does look awkward now, with the 8200 and 9200 and, for certain types of data centers, QFabric, says Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research.
Juniper did need a new core switch, though. In the time since the EX8200 launched in 2008, new switches have arrived from Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Extreme Networks Inc., Kerravala notes.
Still, Juniper is already juggling multiple new product lines, and now it's blazing multiple paths in switching. "If you look at Cisco, they can have a Catalyst path and a Nexus path," Kerravala says. Juniper, with its smaller market share, might have a harder time.
Kerravala does like the programmability of the EX9200, though. (Note that he hadn't been briefed on all the details of the box at press time.) SDN is still in a formative state with many protocols flying around, just as the wide-area network was when Cisco got into routing, he says. "Cisco was the only truly multiprotocol vendor, and they became the Rosetta Stone of the WAN. Maybe Juniper's trying to copy that and become the Rosetta Stone of the data center," he says.
Juniper is also introducing the Junos Space Network Director, an application for managing wireless, campus and data center networks all at once. And it's introducing virtual-machine versions of its wireless LAN controllers, the first of which will appear on the EX9200 early next year.
— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading