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Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching

Craig Matsumoto

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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12/5/2012 | 3:49:00 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
Sounds pretty simple actually. I have long held the view that a technology like VPLS could be used in a datacentre with small switches to create multiple virtual switches - effectively a distributed virtual switch per customer. Now implementing a full blown MPLS stack on a low cost switch might not fly, but if you were able to statically assign a single VPN to a group of switches, you could create one virtual switch.

VLANs could then be used within that VPN to separate different customers.

12/5/2012 | 3:48:59 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
"And frankly speaking, to compare any of those switches with the Nexus (230 Gbps per slot) it's a joke."

The 8200 seems to compare well to the NEXUS. The difference in approach to the product launch is that Juniper is starting with smaller platforms in the family targeted at the heart of the Enterprise, then moving to larger platforms, while Cisco is starting at the higher end and moving down (see LR's article yesterday). Their accelerated announcement schedule would also bring into question the quoted ship dates, and viability of the product when it ships, based on history with other Cisco products such as the CRS.

Needing NX-OS for Cisco's Nexus platform is quite humorous - will all of those enterprise CCIE's need to learn NX-OS to re-certify? Or will they decide now might be the time learn JUNOS once and forever?

Features and functions get you in the door, but end-to-end solutions get you the big sales at the decision maker level. EX provides Juniper an end-to-end portfolio to sell to large enterprises, which is exactly what they need to crack the market.

Partnerships with IBM, Oracle, and MS, along with the SDK project and "application visibility", are huge. Again, large end-to-end network deals are within reach.

At the Service Provider level, many won't even consider going to other large enterprise switches - it's pretty much a two horse race for equipment with a lot of them - Juniper and Cisco. Having another high end data center switch (8200) running the same JUNOS operating system their using on their high-end routers (vs IOS/IOS-XR/SANOS/CATOS + the new NX-OS) will go a long way.

12/5/2012 | 3:48:59 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
I wonder how an insider for the industry can compare Nexus with the new juniper switches...It's so evident they are two completely different kind of equipment I have serious doubt the author is able to go behind marketing hype. Also the stacking, which has been so magnified is nothing new in the industry. Just b/c JNPR stacks 10 instead of 5 or 6 that doesn't seem to me to open a way in networking.
For sure there is a market for a structured Cisco Competitor, but so far this announcement looks more like "no news" than "good/bad" news.
12/5/2012 | 3:48:58 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching

Forgive me for playing devils advocate...

That arguement is really weak and not well thought out. Can you name one vendor from the following list that does NOT ship more than one operating system to cover their entire portfolio of products?


Given that Force10 uses at least 2 OS, Juniper Cisco and Nortel ALL have greater than 3 OS with different syntax for their product lines...

Under the hood, they are all different. the goal is a common user UI, with the details isolated.

I don't ask for the world, but I do ask that if you try to speak in an educated manner that you use well thought out logic instead of just marketing spin.

And at the SP level... the two horse race arguement is weak, not all SP deploy Cisco Switches, and obviously... they do some kind of switching. Since the switching product for Juni, just released, market share numbers don't show Juni being in a two horse race w/ Cisco in the ethernet switching segment... unless you have some educated information ala gartner reports or other market material which shows otherwise.

Or do you just make this up like most marketing people?
12/5/2012 | 3:48:56 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
BTW, Hello to all my "peeps" over at JNPR, especially JT, DW and "The SWORD!"

Like the new enterprise products... about time.


TMC1 in the HOUSE!
12/5/2012 | 3:48:56 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching

Juniper is #2 in overall routing but they are #3 in edge routing. Alcatel is #2 with TiMetra product so it is NOT a 2 horse race in SP routing.

12/5/2012 | 3:48:56 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
I wonder how successful so far they are in opening up JunOS.

One of their main challenge might be containing 'partner applications' not to mess-up with their main routing SW.

12/5/2012 | 3:48:55 PM
re: Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching
"Juniper is #2 in overall routing but they are #3 in edge routing. Alcatel is #2 with TiMetra product so it is NOT a 2 horse race in SP routing."

Overall Juniper is #2 if you combine core and edge which I think the original statement intended. If you break it down by core and edge then things change and yes other vendors get a look in.

You can't say Alcatel have any presence in carrier core IP/MPLS networks though....:)

Over to you TMC1 :)

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