The TX is an interconnection hub linking four of Juniper's T640 boxes so they behave as one honkin' router. Juniper is the last of the major router vendors to announce a multichassis architecture. Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) has been selling one with its TSR, and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) went multichassis with its CRS-1 Carrier Routing System, launched in May (see Cisco Unveils the HFR).
The TX Matrix was first mentioned in 2002 when Juniper launched the T640. But Juniper has held off its announcement until now, with the product having reached general availability (see Juniper Goes Terabit With the T640 and Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn).
The announcement comes with only two major surprises. First, the TX connects four T640s rather than eight as promised in 2002. That's because the market for really big routers hasn't exactly blossomed yet. Future versions will support larger numbers of routers -- the TX has the capacity to connect dozens of them -- but Juniper won't commit to a larger size until carriers' future needs become clearer, says Tom Jacobs, senior marketing manager.
The other surprise is that Juniper can't yet point to any paying customers for the TX. The company says Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) has completed a beta test of the product, but it doesn't appear any carrier is running paid-customer traffic across a TX just yet.
Analysts had expected Juniper to announce the TX only after the system was installed in a live carrier network. Even if such a customer exists, it hasn't given Juniper permission to speak, so why announce now? Most in the industry believe Juniper is trying to steal some thunder from Cisco's annual analyst day, a headline-making ritual slated for next Tuesday.
(In similar fashion, Juniper celebrated the almost-2-year anniversary of the T640 on the eve of the CRS-1 launch -- see Juniper Celebrates Itself).
Speed vs. space
Four T640s add up to 1.28 Tbit/s of traffic (that's without counting ingress and egress traffic separately). That pales in comparison to Cisco's 46-Tbit/s maximum on the CRS-1, but Juniper officials say they were going for pragmatic appeal rather than record-setting numbers (see Cisco Grabs a Guinness).
"Our customers would like to not go beyond four or eight" routers connected together, Jacobs says. "They don't want to spend that real estate." In other words, space remains scarce in some points of presence; as bandwidth requirements grow, carriers would rather keep the same number of routers, with each router upgraded to accommodate more traffic, Jacobs asserts.
Naturally, Cisco disagrees. "Space is not the issue. Planning for the future is the bigger concern that the service providers have," says Suraj Shetty, director of marketing for Cisco's router group. He notes that the CRS-1 was built big to increase longevity by putting off the day when the multichassis router has to be ripped out for a higher-capacity design. "The further out you set that breaking point, the better off you are."
It could be years before either argument truly gets tested, because core routers this large remain in slim demand. But Cisco and Juniper had to pursue the core, because carriers are in the throes of replacing their core networks with a converged architecture based on IP and MPLS. It's a rare chance to score some major core wins, and service providers want the winning routers to handle the next several years' worth of growth. "Every single core bid we get our hands on has multichassis on it," Jacobs says.
Cisco continues to dominate core routing, but Juniper has gained ground notably during the past year. Synergy Research Group Inc. figures Juniper's core-router market share at 29 percent after the third quarter of 2004, up from 20 percent at the beginning of the year.
Analysts have attributed the router slide, in part, to Cisco's transition to the CRS-1, as that box uses a different operating system from its predecessor, the GSR 12000 series. "But we expect that Cisco will continue to push its CRS-1 in its effort to recapture some of these share losses," wrote Tal Liani, analyst with Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., in a report issued last month.
Other competitors to Cisco and Juniper in the core-router space include Axiowave Networks Inc., which recently cut the majority of its staff, and Chiaro Networks Inc., which reported a partnership with ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq/NM: ECIL) yesterday (see Cutting the Fat (Really) and Chiaro Lands ECI Investment).
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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