Ethernet equipment

Juniper Readies Ethernet Launch

Multiple sources say Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) is close to releasing its home-built Ethernet products and that the company is using merchant silicon chips to build them.

That would be a new chapter for Juniper on two fronts. First, the company hasn't sold plain Layer 2 switches before, a fact that's led to repeated rumors of Juniper acquisitions. (See Is Juniper Eyeing H3C? and Juniper Shopping for Atrica?) Second, the use of outside chips would break the Juniper mold of developing its own ASICs to power boxes like the M- and T-series routers.

When Light Reading reported on the Ethernet projects last year, it was unclear whether Juniper wanted to build a linecard (going into its M- or E-series boxes) or a brand new Ethernet system. (See Juniper's Ethernet Strategy Emerging.) Now, sources say the company is doing both. One source says the switch has been completed and is being readied for a launch in May.

According to another source, Juniper is using an EZchip Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: EZCH) network processor for the card and Sandburst Corp. chips for the separate system. The latter contract reportedly spurred Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) to acquire Sandburst recently. (See Broadcom Builds on Sandburst.)

Juniper officials say they won't comment on rumors. Representatives for EZchip and Sandburst were not immediately available for comment.

Neither Ethernet product is targeting low-end LANs. Rather, Juniper is said to be tackling carrier Ethernet, a market that's heating up as carriers focus on Ethernet services and IPTV. The latter uses Gigabit Ethernet links to hook up homes to video feeds, creating a need for high-density Ethernet aggregation boxes.

Alcatel has gotten plenty of attention here with its 7450 Ethernet Service Switch, in some ways besting Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) for some IPTV contracts, and it's presumed that other vendors, including Juniper, are having to respond with similar architectures. (See IPTV Alters Network Landscape and Alcatel Router Revenues Surge.)

"We expect Juniper to introduce a box in that space," says Steve Kamman, an analyst with CIBC World Markets . A May launch, prepping the company for a Globalcomm splash in June, would make sense, he says.

It's possible to take the carrier Ethernet obsession too far, Kamman notes, citing the example of Ethernet vendor Riverstone Networks Inc. (OTC: RSTN.PK) building a router to suit carrier networks. "That sort of suggests there's a future for routers in an Ethernet-dominated world. But Ethernet is still a space where Juniper needs a presence," he says.

That Juniper has multiple projects underway isn't surprising -- large companies often launch competing designs to tackle a concept, eventually picking just one winner. To that end, Juniper has been looking hard at network processors to suit a variety of ideas, according to a chip-industry source.

"Over a period of three-and-a-half years, there has been more and more activity [at Juniper] around industry-standard silicon. It feels like they're taking it a lot more seriously," the source says. Juniper has considered multiple product designs, "almost always in competition with a project that used internal stuff," the source says.

Given that pattern, it's difficult to call the Ethernet card a sure thing. Another source, though, says the full Ethernet switch is good to go.

While Juniper ASICs have done the company proud, outside silicon seems sensible when it comes to Ethernet aggregation and transport, because carriers expect those boxes to be cheaper than routers. "Repurposed router silicon tends to be too expensive for that," says the chip-industry source.

Taking the concept a step further, one source even believes Juniper is hiring an original design manufacturer (ODM) to build the Sandburst-based Ethernet switch. Such practices, common for commodity equipment, haven't yet reached high-end carrier boxes. But chip vendors hope to change that through standards such as AdvancedTCA . (See ATCA Starts to Rumble.)

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

humble226 12/5/2012 | 3:13:07 PM
re: Juniper Readies Ethernet Launch By Ethernet Routers, they mean their recently deployed Force10 "dumb core". It's a reasonably smart move on (3)'s part, a true core needs very little other than high-speed simple feature-less routing, and it's a lot more cost effective to do it with a L3 switch and lots of 10GE than it is to do it with a T640 or GSR and lots of OC192. Not that Force10 is a smart move or anything, but (3) thinking out of the box and using lots of parallel 10GE in the core is certainly novel for them at any rate.

The Juniper MX960 is really going for a completely different market segment. For the record, when Juniper says "Carrier Ethernet" what they mean is that they are shipping a box which is nothing more than a slightly larger T-series with a slightly newer rev I-chip and the same fabric architecture as the M120 that just happens to ship with only Ethernet cards and at a lower price, and it will not do any L2 switching at all for probably another year. They're walking a fine line between spending a lot of time and money developing a new inferior product and competing with themselves in the M/T series, which is why you see all the odd market posturing.

The real advantage here is JUNOS. The hardware is nothing new, the features are nothing new, but there are a LOT of carriers who will gladly pay the extra money vs a 6500/7600 (the real competition, not Alcatel) to get JUNOS. I'd expect to see the MX be most successful on the peering edge, as even the normally braindead tier 1's wake up and realize that 10GE makes a lot more financial sense. This is the area where JUNOS's management and policy features will really shine above all others for the next several years.
jamesbond 12/5/2012 | 3:59:32 AM
re: Juniper Readies Ethernet Launch
Why does one need network processor for L2 Switching function?

Just curious...
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:59:32 AM
re: Juniper Readies Ethernet Launch Well, this probably isn't plain vanilla Layer 2 gear. I'd figure they'd add some level of QOS and per-flow control. And in Sandburst's case, actually, the interest might be more in the switch fabric and traffic manager than in the packet-processing chip.

brahmos 12/5/2012 | 3:59:30 AM
re: Juniper Readies Ethernet Launch good story by LR. I am glad another player has maybe stepped up to curb the obscene free meal csco gets in the enterprise.

twill009 12/5/2012 | 3:59:30 AM
re: Juniper Readies Ethernet Launch The Sandburst/Broadcom based box sounds credible because Broadcom is already the engine inside lots of Ethernet gear. If such as system does see the light of day, this might also put the ice on those persistent JNPR/EXTR rumors.

The EZChip-based card (which is mostly owned by LANOptics) does not sound as likely, because a lot of its functionality (traffic management, packet parsing) is kind of Juniper's secret sauce in the carrier environment. George Gilder has done one of his typical huge pump jobs on LNOP that seems to contain some nuggets of truth, which you can see here:


In any case, thanks to LightReading for an interesting story and worth checking out.

(despite the 'chip' in my name, i have no affiliation with any of these companies.)
Honestly 12/5/2012 | 3:59:29 AM
re: Juniper Readies Ethernet Launch A carrier only ethernet solution would confirm that Juniper has such a limited enterprise strategy vision. 10Gig Ethernet with 10Gig PCIe NICS are the NAS and data center rage, but it sounds like Juniper may launch and try too pick off business that may well be wrapped up big time by Alcatel and Microsoft. I also hear that the Broadcom solution is not without its problems.

EXTR is in good position to be acquired and many have long discounted JNPR as a suiter, however Juniper still may go after an enterprise purchase.
They need sales expertise and a solution, or they will continue to struggle in the enterprise a current sore achiles heal
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:59:23 AM
re: Juniper Readies Ethernet Launch This brings up a strange comment LVLT made at their recent analyst meeting. They claim to be able to beat all comers in QoS AND Op-Ex AND Cap-Ex in part through their use of "Ethernet Routers." It brings to mind the saying: "You can have high quality, fast turn-around or low prices, pick TWO.

I am not sure what an "Ethernet-Router" is, or how L2 or L3-ish it is, but LVLT sure is not interested in paying for core router ports. I also wonder what wonder box can pull off all three of their goals. If they are half right, JNPR cannot ship an Ethernet box fast enough!
twill009 12/5/2012 | 3:59:22 AM
re: Juniper Readies Ethernet Launch Alcatel also makes a similar distinction about its routers, calling the 7450 ESS family "IP/Ethernet Aggregation Routers" and the 7750 and 7710 SR families "Multi-Service Edge Routers".

It is probably cheaper to build and maintain a single protocol router like the 7450 than juggle and translate among mixed protocols.

Of course, in reality the LVLT exec is probably just blowing smoke (or inhaling it). Wouldn't be the first time in either case.
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