At Supercomm in June, the company was telling analysts to brace for a fall 2004 launch. Well, OK, "fall" has just begun, but it's fair to start asking when the TX will make its debut.
The TX, also called the Internet Switching Node, is Juniper's switch for interconnecting up to eight of the company's T640 core routers. It's Juniper's answer to the multichassis architecture sported by Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) in its TSR routers or by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) in the CRS-1 announced in May (see Juniper Goes Terabit With the T640 and Cisco Unveils the HFR).
Juniper isn't sweating the schedule; in fact CEO Scott Kriens considers the announcement to be a done deal. "That was about a year ago," he told Light Reading at Monday's Links 2004 conference. "There's no mystery there."
Oh, but what about the smoke and lights, the TV cameras, the ridiculously large numbers (see Cisco Grabs a Guinness)? Juniper has revealed some details, such as the TX's optical backplane, but it's never given the switch the in-depth launch and fanfare that normally goes with new architectures.
Cisco, on the other hand, gave customers and press a Comdex-style event complete with guest speakers, a demonstration, and (most important) food. The company also pumped up the CRS-1's ability to fit into 72-chassis implementations, well outdoing the TX's eight, and the system's new IOS XR software, which critics say is an attempt to catch up to Avici's and Juniper's software architectures.
Analysts expected a full-scale TX launch right after the CRS-1 announcement. Instead, Juniper used the occasion -- with the company swearing it was just a coincidence -- to fete the T640 by announcing 60 contract awards (see Juniper Celebrates Itself).
Consultant Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects, says factions within Juniper wanted to announce the TX right after the CRS-1 event, but that Jim Dolce, executive vice president of worldwide field operations, had his heart set on a more conservative plan.
"I had heard they would not announce it until the customers had it physically operational in the network," he says. "It would have to be installed, paid for, and everything else." Juniper ought to be feeling the pressure, though. "They're under some pressure, and they know it," says Debra Mielke, principal analyst for Treillage Network Strategies Inc.. "It's them and Cisco. One jumps ahead, then the other."
"The TX has to be announced, because there's a bunch of RFPs on the street. That's the reason Cisco announced theirs," Dzubeck says.
Then again, a September/October launch might be a chance to snipe at Cisco at a vulnerable time. Business Week reported last week that Avici had won a five-year extension to its core-router contract with AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T), beating out Cisco. (Avici officials weren't able to comment at press time for this story, but the company announced the deal this morning; see Avici Expands AT&T's IP Backbone and Avici Target out of Reach .)
So, where is Juniper's Cisco-beater?
"I think [the delay is] more the customer than it is Juniper," says Debra Mielke, principal analyst for Treillage. "My experience tells me it's usually the service provider that's slower than the vendor." Staff cuts at service providers have slowed down the testing and qualification process, she adds.
A Juniper spokeswoman declined to comment, other than to say, "We're on track to deliver the TX when customers tell us they need it."
And that could be the hangup; some sources say Juniper hasn't bothered launching the TX yet because nobody needs one -- because one problem with core router sales is that so few carriers need the heft of a multichassis box.
Avici admits this; that's why the company released its half-sized SSR and quarter-sized QSR, shrunken versions of its flagship TSR line. Cisco, with its claims of 92 Tbit/s for the CRS-1, "really miscalculated the market requirement," Avici's Swartz claims. "What people want is an SSR/QSR-sized router that scales up." (See Avici Intros Tiny TSR and Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router.)
The urgency around the TX may have dwindled as well. After all, it's been two years, during which time the need for massive core routers has evaporated. Moreover, Juniper's focus has shifted, with an aggressive push during the past year to get into enterprise networks. If the company wants hype, it's got the $4 billion acquisition of NetScreen Technologies Inc. to hold up for investors (see Juniper Buys NetScreen).
When the launch does come around, one source says Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) is likely going to be the reference customer. DT has used both Cisco and Juniper gear in the past, but its inclusion in the TX launch would be a bit of a zinger, as the carrier was one of four that Cisco had on stage to trumpet the CRS-1 launch.
Light Reading hasn't independently confirmed DT's involvement -- the carrier couldn't be reached by press time.
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading
For more on this topic, check out:
- The Heavy Reading report:
— Next-Generation Routers: A Comprehensive Product Analysis