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Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching

Craig Matsumoto
1/29/2008

NEW YORK -- Four years after the acquisition of NetScreen, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) is making a full-blown assault on enterprise business, finally striking at the heart of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) territory.

In a press and analyst gathering here this morning, Juniper trotted out a new line of Ethernet switches and a cluster of powerhouse partnerships. In the latter camp, CEO Scott Kriens announced IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), and Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) will all be building applications and services based on Juniper's network infrastucture. (See Juniper Bows Ethernet Switches.)

Juniper is also opening up its network to partners, providing software development kits (SDKs) to give them access to the enterprise network's core for the first time. This move follows Juniper's proclamation last month that select partners would get access to its software. (See Juniper Opens Up to Apps Developers.)

The different aspects of today's announcements cover areas long viewed as critical in Juniper's attempt to battle Cisco for enterprise business. Despite the prestige of NetScreen, both the switches and the partnerships have been missing from Juniper's enterprise pitch.

Cisco, which made its own Ethernet splash with Monday's Nexus launch, didn't get mentioned by name. (See Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future.) But Juniper got its share of needling in -- particularly by revealing the IBM partnership early in the presentation.

Having its top distribution partner line up with its top rival "is a bit of a black eye for Cisco," says analyst Tim Daubenspeck of Pacific Crest Securities Inc. "I can see why Cisco wanted to get the Nexus out yesterday and generate some good news."

The situation in enterprise networks matches what Juniper saw in service-provider networks roughly 10 years ago, Kriens said. In 1998, Juniper introduced the M40 as a way to smooth out the overly complicated nature of the network. Today, Juniper sees that same kind of complexity in enterprise software.

"When we look at the opportunity to serve this market, to respond to the chaos that we see in the enterprise market and the need for order, it brings us to exactly the same opportunity with the same DNA," Kriens said.

On the hardware side, Juniper unveiled the EX line of Ethernet switches. ("Unveiled" literally: Juniper founder Pradeep Sindhu pulled a black cloth off an array of EXs while the song "Rock You Like a Hurricane" played over the PA system. It was apparently a reference to the chip, reportedly code-named "Hurricane," that's at the heart of the EX. Mercifully, the music stopped after a few bars.)

Juniper has done a lot to answer its critics in Ethernet, and its Junos operating system offers a Layer 2-only option now. (See Juniper Gains Ethernet Mojo.) The EX line, though, represents the company's first large-scale foray into pure Layer 2 switching, as opposed to the Layer 3 IP routing that's been Juniper's hallmark.

The EX boxes, running on Junos, cover quite a range:

  • The EX 3200 is a fixed-configuration platform, with different versions carrying 24 or 48 ports of Gigabit Ethernet, with optional four- and two-port 10-Gbit/s Ethernet uplink modules.

  • The EX 4200, the most unusual of the EXs, is what Juniper is calling a "virtual chassis." It's the same size as the EX 3200, but 10 of them can be interconnected across a 128-Gbit/s backplane, creating a virtual switch with up to 480 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 20 uplink ports of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet. The idea is to take up less space and require less cooling than a one-box modular switch.

  • The EX 8200s, fitting in half a standard equipment rack, can pack a maximum of 128 wire-speed 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports each, Juniper says. That means Juniper can provide 256 ports per rack, which matches the initial configuration offered by Cisco's Nexus 7000.


The EX lines appear to outdo Cisco's Nexus in some aspects. Neither Nexus nor Catalyst offers the multichassis ability of the EX 4200, for example. And the promise of "wire-speed" 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports might equate to more port capacity than Nexus, which appears to require overprovisioning if all 10-Gbit/s ports are used.

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Belzebutt
Belzebutt
12/5/2012 | 3:49:05 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
Gotta love how the demo for the 4200 claims Virtual Chassis is a "truly unique" feature. Nortel had that for last 10 years or so. The ES 450 all the way to the new 5500 and 4500 series all support stacking in a non-blocking way (unlike Cisco), managed as a single unit. Next thing you know Juniper will claim to invent the wheel!
ethermac
ethermac
12/5/2012 | 3:49:05 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
So, more or less we can say that with this EX4200 they have invented the stackable switch. As far as I know, even Cisco has something similar. First, they have the VSS1440 which, AFAIK, it's a couple of 6500 with an special Supervisor. And the concept of Virtual Switch it's also already present in the Catalyst 6500 too.

And of course, in the low end they have the E series of 3560 and 3750, with 64 Gbps of stacking.

And frankly speaking, to compare any of those switches with the Nexus (230 Gbps per slot) it's a joke.
andropat
andropat
12/5/2012 | 3:49:04 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
IT has everything to do with the how Juniper solves typical L2 issues in this solution. more to come.
pat
Light-bulb
Light-bulb
12/5/2012 | 3:49:04 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
To answer someone's question... I know from workign with the Cisco's 3750 line that the stacking allows full fault tolerance across the stack. Mastership, replacement etc. Granted unless you dual-home your boxes off of different switches in the stack you'll have a hit when you replace something but that's a no-brainer.
Personally, one must ask themselves... why would JNPR sell low end switches at all? They going to drop their drawers on price? They going to try and compete with the Huawei's, HP, Dells?
Their larger box is interesting... but what exactly is unique? What can they do that no one else can? Maybe I missed something?

LB
tsat
tsat
12/5/2012 | 3:49:04 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
Do traditional stackable switches have the same kind of redundancy and availability features as the EX? Do they do automatic mastership failover and backup mastership re-assignment? Can you hot-swap a box out of the stack and replace it without affecting the other boxes? Maybe they do, I am just not sure.
ethermac
ethermac
12/5/2012 | 3:49:03 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
Sorry, I didn't quote your message. The answer to:

Do traditional stackable switches have the same kind of redundancy and availability features as the EX? Do they do automatic mastership failover and backup mastership re-assignment? Can you hot-swap a box out of the stack and replace it without affecting the other boxes? Maybe they do, I am just not sure.

It's yes, they do
ethermac
ethermac
12/5/2012 | 3:49:03 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
Yes, they do.

raid
raid
12/5/2012 | 3:49:02 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching

Juniper probably wants to replace Foundry, Extreme, Force10 in the enterprise market - not the HP or Dells.

Their selling point is JunOS and they can be a viable second source + sell to folks who don't want to be Cisco customers. There's quite a bit of market out there.

Whether Juniper has a innovative HW design is not that important, IMHO.
What's critical is if they can build the box at low cost. If they selected the right suppliers and HW, they can probably hit similar margins to cisco and thus succeed.

raid
raid
12/5/2012 | 3:49:01 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
(1) Is the backplane a virtual one or an actual physical backplane?
(2) Does it provide full mesh type connectivity and 128Gb/s bandwidth across the 10 stackable switches.

Juniper claims to create a single "virtual" switch out of 10 stackables potentially located in different buildings. It does look like an new feature to me. Does any other switch vendor offer this kind of capability ?


------------
The EX 4200, the most unusual of the EXs, is what Juniper is calling a "virtual chassis." It's the same size as the EX 3200, but 10 of them can be interconnected across a 128-Gbit/s backplane, creating a virtual switch with up to 480 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 20 uplink ports of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet. The idea is to take up less space and require less cooling than a one-box modular switch
-----------------
douaibei
douaibei
12/5/2012 | 3:49:00 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
the new release of EX series will give juniper a strong position in the whole switch market:

MX series targeting the carrier market
EX cover the enterprise market

JUNOS did give juniper more advantage to provide the new value added service which is quite critical to win the battle against cisco and huawei/3com

the question now is not where the product is good or bad but how to prove the enterprise users that juniper switch worth they attention.

Cisco has been very successful by promoting the certification for every engineer, but Juniper looks far behind the market.

Recommend action for cisco:
Beat juniper in enterprise with the E series product which support a lot of carrier feature and hard qos.

Leverage the concept of the network is the datacenter and the datacenter is the network which will pass more cisco advantage in the datacenter area to raise more concern of juniper solution. as the switch is just the dumb hardware but application feature will decide the Lan and wan solution.

Recommend action to Juniper:
Evilize the cisco image as a arrogant partner, leverage the good reputaion in the router market to promote more switch sale. at the same time juniper need to be aware that the low cost vendor like huawei/dlink/hp is in the low end market, juniper can leverage more innovation against them.

still not sure the price level of juniper product which may decide the true market position of juniper switch product line.

Good luck Juniper.
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