It’s worth repeating: Juniper wins.
But it’s also worth noting: its archrival, Cisco Systems, ran a close second.
Here's the sound bite: After 10 years at the top, Cisco Systems no longer has to worry about the competition catching up. Now it has a new challenge: Playing catch-up to the performance of routers from rival Juniper Networks.
That’s the simple conclusion to be drawn from six months of arduous testing that pitted Juniper’s flagship M160 against Cisco’s brand-new 12416 in the first head-to-head comparison of 10-Gbit/s routers. It’s also the first time Cisco has agreed to let any of its gear be evaluated in an independent public test.
Actually, “test” is a pretty bland word for what would be considered cruel and unusual punishment in most states. Basically, we threw all the traffic on the Internet — and then some — at these bit-blasters in hopes of cutting through the white noise of vendor white papers. At every step of the way we were ably aided and abetted by our partners in crime: Network Test Inc. of Hoboken, N.J., a benchmarking and network design consultancy; and Spirent Communications of Calabasas, Calif., a test equipment supplier.
Here’s what we found:
Juniper’s M160 is the best of breed. It beat out Cisco’s product in three out of four overall areas: IP, MPLS, and OC192 (10 Gbit/s). Cisco and Juniper shared the honors in the fourth category: OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s) performance.
In some areas, the M160 is in a class by itself: It holds more BGP routes and more MPLS label-switched paths than any other box. It deals with network instability far better. And it exhibits much lower average latency and latency variation.
Specifically, the M160 outpaced the Cisco 12416 in seven out of the 16 individual tests offered, and tied for first with Cisco in five events (see Table 1). Where does that leave Cisco? With an impressive product that pulled ahead of Juniper in the four remaining tests.
Table 1: Results Summary
|Charlotte's Networks||Cisco Systems||Foundry Networks||Juniper Networks||Winner|
|IP baseline tests: OC48||3*||1||4||2||Cisco|
|MPLS baseline tests: OC48||N/A||1||N/A||1||Cisco, Juniper|
|IP baseline tests: OC192||N/A||1||N/A||1||Cisco, Juniper|
|MPLS baseline tests: OC192||N/A||1||N/A||1||Cisco, Juniper|
|Longest-match lookup: OC48||N/A||1||2||2||Cisco|
|Longest-match lookup: OC192||N/A||1||N/A||2||Cisco|
|BGP table capacity||N/A||2||3||1||Juniper|
|MPLS LSP capacity||N/A||2||N/A||1||Juniper|
|Route flapping: OC48||N/A||1||3||1||Cisco, Juniper|
|Route flapping: OC192||N/A||2||N/A||1||Juniper|
|Class of service: OC48||N/A||1||N/A||1||Cisco, Juniper|
|Class of service: OC192||N/A||1||N/A||2||Cisco|
|* Numbers represent relative ranking|
N/A = Not applicable
OC48 = 2.5 Gbit/s
OC192 = 10 Gbit/s
BGP = Border gateway protocol
LSP = Label-switched path
MPLS = Multiprotocol label switching
For a yet more detailed breakdown of the test results, click here. There’s no doubt that the 12416, with its OC192c interfaces and 320-Gbit/s switching fabric, is a vast improvement over its GSR predecessor. Keep in mind that Cisco’s product is new — and thus less seasoned than Juniper’s M160, which has been shipping since spring 2000. In fact, Cisco’s new offering is just a memory upgrade and a couple of features away from being a serious threat to Juniper.
Now things get interesting.
There’s only one way for Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) to take its second-place finish: personally. Over the past few years it’s watched Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) walk away with market share (some would suggest that “run away” is a more apt description). Its stock, which once seemed to deny the laws of gravity, is in freefall. Cisco didn’t just want a win; it needed one. But the test results prove it’s not about to walk away from the core market.
So if Cisco and Juniper have at each other, does that mean other core router vendors stand to benefit from the bloodshed? Not in this market. True, there are a bunch of startups out there that claim they can deliver something the market leaders can’t. Unfortunately, what most can’t deliver is a core router. We issued our call for products to 11 vendors. There were only two other takers besides Cisco and Juniper: Charlotte’s Networks Ltd. and Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY).
How did they do? Let’s just say we were underwhelmed by the test results. Maybe Foundry got the message. After we’d finished testing its product, it announced that it was bailing out of the core router business. Smart move (see Foundry Retreats from the Core). This market belongs to our two top finishers for the foreseeable future.
Then again, both Foundry and Charlotte’s Networks deserve credit for having the guts to show up. Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7), which is the number three core router player in terms of market share, had agreed to take part but, in the end, thought better of it — they didn't show.
Links to the individual sections:
The Core of the Problem
Building a Better Testbed
OC48 Throughput and Forwarding
Looking at Latency
BGP Table Capacity
MPLS Tunnel Capacity
Focus on Filtering
Quality of Service