Optical/IP Networks

Internet Core Router Test

Juniper Wins!

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
Convergence: OC48 N/A 2 3 1 Juniper
Convergence: OC192 N/A 2 3 1 Juniper
Filtering: OC48 N/A N/A 2 1 Juniper
Filtering: OC192 N/A N/A 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
OC192 Throughput
MPLS Throughput
Looking at Latency
Packet Ordering
Longest-Match Lookups
BGP Table Capacity
MPLS Tunnel Capacity
Route Flapping
Convergence Testing
Focus on Filtering
Quality of Service

Test Methodology
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country_boy 12/4/2012 | 10:59:19 PM
re: Internet Core Router Test don't know if Juniper supports it. There are real DVMRP networks out there. Go look at starburst.com, MBONE is mostly DVMRP. Check out Unisphere, they have a pretty good mcast implementation for the edge. And support DVMRP on that edge router.
fr7 12/4/2012 | 10:57:49 PM
re: Internet Core Router Test It would be nice to see the results on latency and jitter figures on each Class of Service... In reality an enterprise for example would like to have multiple CoS each for different applications, Gold for VoIP, Silver for SAP and Bronze for Web.

It would be interesting to see how well each vendor comes up in implementing the Differv EF and AF classes.
mullinst 12/4/2012 | 10:51:44 PM
re: Internet Core Router Test Would like to understand more detail from the Longest Match Scenario in the Core Router Test. I've found information regarding the 201k IP prefixes for the baseline test. However, can't seem to find more definition on the specific 50k additional prefixes used for the LM Test. Can someone point me to that background? Thanks.

Tim Mullins

dnewman 12/4/2012 | 10:51:28 PM
re: Internet Core Router Test Hi Tim,

Thanks for your inquiry. The extra 50K prefixes were simply more-specific variations of entries in our 200K-plus table.

For example, if the main table had an entry for:

then we might add an entry for:

Hope this helps.

David Newman
Network Test
dnewman 12/4/2012 | 10:51:22 PM
re: Internet Core Router Test ps. The 127/whatever example in my previous post is obviously fact-free. Yes, of course it's the localhost block, and no, we didn't use it in the LR tests. We also didn't use the RFC 1918 blocks plus a few other ARIN-reserved blocks.

David Newman
Network Test
mullinst 12/4/2012 | 10:51:17 PM
re: Internet Core Router Test David -- Thanks for your reply on this topic. I understand the algorithm you describe, but am still interested in the specific 50k prefixes used. Is it possible to obtain a file of the particular additional 50k values used in the test? Thanks for pointing me to the right source of information on this.

-- Tim Mullins

bola12 12/4/2012 | 10:51:05 PM
re: Internet Core Router Test Hello?
Ncronk 12/4/2012 | 10:50:10 PM
re: Internet Core Router Test How does DVMRP relate to this field of expertise? I am not an engineer - still learning. Please don't flame me!!!
Thx, Nanci
dnewman 12/4/2012 | 10:49:59 PM
re: Internet Core Router Test Hi Tim,

Please forgive the high latency of my response. I've (finally) dug up the prefixes we advertised in the longest-match lookup tests. Versions for the OC-48 and OC-192 test beds are now available here:



There are a couple of explanatory notes in the spreadsheets indicating how we increment addresses, and which interfaces received which prefixes.

To see which prefixes we added in the longest-match test, you can compare these larger tables with the base-case tables that were already referenced in section 1 of the test methodology:



I've also updated the methodology to add links to the longest-match tables.

Hope this helps.

David Newman
Network Test
mullinst 12/4/2012 | 10:49:37 PM
re: Internet Core Router Test David -- Thanks much for the help. I'll check out the files.

-- Tim Mullins

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