To kick off Globalcomm today, the company is bringing out Ethernet cards -- formally dubbed the IQ2 Ethernet Services Aggregation PICs (Physical Interface Cards) -- for the M- and T-series routers.
Juniper won't say it's late to the Ethernet game, though. "We've had Ethernet for some time now. This adds significant enhancements in QOS and in programmability," says Tom DiMicelli, Juniper's product marketing manager. "I think we're leading the way with this type of product, where we're adding this layer of intelligence to it."
The product announcement is probably a relief for Juniper, as the company has been peppered with criticisms, rumors, and advice about Ethernet for more than a year. (See Extreme Juniper Rumors Are Back, Juniper Shopping for Atrica?, and Juniper Spikes M&A Rumors.)
The initial theory was that Juniper needed Ethernet for its enterprise ambitions, but lately Ethernet has become important to the carrier networks too. Ethernet equipment vendors have been saying their prospects are blossoming as service providers eschew Layer 3 routing -- Juniper's bread and butter -- when it comes to transporting certain services.
Nowhere has Juniper's Layer 2 absence been felt more than in IPTV, where some say Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) has gotten the upper hand with its 7450 Ethernet Services Switch, a box for which Juniper has had no analogue. That's helped fuel questions of when Juniper would make its Ethernet play and whether it would have to acquire someone to do it. (See Juniper Looks Beyond IPTV and Extreme Juniper Rumors Are Back.)
Juniper notes, by the way, that the 7450 is primarily an aggregation tool when it comes to IPTV -- a market different from the routing that Juniper says its M- and T-series boxes are doing in IPTV networks. Not everyone buys it, but that's what Juniper says. (See IPTV, Alcatel Still Dog Juniper.)
Sources have spoken of multiple Juniper Ethernet projects lately. For the cards being released today, Juniper reportedly hired key Riverstone Networks engineers and is thought to be using EZchip Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: EZCH) network processors. (Neither Juniper nor EZchip would confirm that last part, and Juniper has never commented on the Riverstone theory.)
Still under wraps, apparently, is Juniper's rumored Ethernet switch, a system that could be key in countering Alcatel. (See Juniper Readies Ethernet Launch.) Juniper still won't say whether that project exists. "I'm not going to comment on our product roadmap," DiMicelli says.
That's OK, because an M- and T-series interface card is the kind of Ethernet step Juniper should be taking first, says CIMI Corp. analyst Tom Nolle. "Whether Juniper is going to do anything with Ethernet switching or not, this is really important for them," he says.
Nolle thinks Ethernet's primary role won't be as just plain Ethernet, but as a protocol that other things would be tunneled over. That means technologies like pseudowires, which can transmit legacy services over Ethernet, will come into play. (See Pseudowires.) Juniper needed to put itself in a position to be the launching pad for such traffic.
"There has to be something that sits at the edge of the Ethernet boundary and provides handoff to the kind of infrastructure that's going to be built. If Juniper couldn't provide that linkup point, anything they would do would be kind of stranded in the metro network," Nolle says.
What Juniper should not do, Nolle says, is get into areas like the simplified carrier Ethernet proposed by Nortel Networks Ltd. with its Provider Backbone Transport. (See BT Likes Nortel's New Ethernet Flavor.) In that instance, Juniper wouldn't be as crucial to the overall network architecture. "They'd just be doing commodity switching."
According to Juniper, the new Ethernet cards are packed with QOS and programmability; the aim was to build something that links to the legacy world of installed M- and T-series routers. "It's a different approach than just building a cheap, fast Ethernet switch and making it carrier-grade," DiMicelli explains.
As for the specifics on the cards: Four versions are being announced today. Two are designed with oversubscription in mind. One carries four ports of Gigabit Ethernet with capacity for 1 Gbit/s (in each direction) on the card; the other has eight Gigabit Ethernet ports and a 4-Gbit/s capacity.
These would be useful in cases where flow isn't continual and probably won't saturate the card. "They're probably most applicable to the M-series appliances, where you're connecting to things like aggregation switches," DiMicelli says. QOS would help prioritize traffic in case of congestion, he adds.
The other two cards work at line rate -- that is, they can handle all the traffic if every port is stuffed to capacity. One has eight ports of Gigabit Ethernet. The other has a lone 10-Gbit/s Ethernet port.
"Line rate might be more appropriate for those applications where those Gigabit Ethernet interfaces might be oversubscribed," DiMicelli says. They might also be useful on the T-series routers when they're aggregating Ethernet traffic from M-series boxes.
Table 1: Juniper's Ethernet Lineup
|# Ports||Port Speed|
|1||10 GigE||Line rate|
|Source: Juniper Networks|
The oversubscription cards are already available; the line-rate cards are set for a third-quarter launch.
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading