Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn

Two years ago, Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) promised a router called the TX, slated for late 2004. So the time has come to ask: Where is it?

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

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H_ngm_N 12/5/2012 | 1:14:48 AM
re: Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn Does anybody really need to be able to route multiple terabits in their core ?

Assuming you have the volume/size to actually sustain multiple terabits, aren't you routing a good majority of that closer to the edge anyways today ?

= K
krbabu 12/5/2012 | 1:14:47 AM
re: Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn With 50 Mbit/s to each home as discussed elsewhere on this web site, http://www.lightreading.com/do..., and with about 20,000 subscribers for a typical central office, you got 1 Tbit/s of bandwidth needed in an edge router! Granted, you will do some sort of statistical multiplexing, etc., but the point here is that bandwidths of the order of Tbit/s could easily become routine in the not too distant future.
gbennett 12/5/2012 | 1:14:46 AM
re: Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn I don't think you can dismiss stat muxing quite so quickly, krbabu. Here in the UK the typical broadband contention is 50:1 for home users and 20:1 for a business service.

You're describing a 50Mbit/s-per-end-point service that I assume would continue to be over-subscribed at these kinds of levels.

So your aggregation router (B-RAS or IP Services Switch, whatever it becomes by that time) actually only needs a capacity of 50Gbit/s (that's at 20:1).

And if we're still talking asymmetric service then that normally means one third of the bandwidth upstream compared to downstream. So a 50Gbit/s full duplex box might not even be breathing hard.

And remember you're talking a CO box, and so the SP could always distribute this load over several boxes, for resilience or load reasons.

So from these simplistic numbers we can already see that things could easily flip the other way if...

1. Contention rates drop. Quite likely if SPs expect fancy VoD services to work properly. But if you're whacking up the bandwidth to 50Mbit/s then contention rates may stay high. I suspect they will need to stay high in order to enable "IP economics", with premium customer flows being prioritised through the contention using DiffServ.

2. Asymmetry assumptions change. You're talking about a 50Mbit/s service, so that implies about 15Mbit/s upstream. I can't see me generating more than this amount of bandwidth from home, or even a home office - although it might finally mean decent video conferencing is possible. Real business offices will use SDSL, of course, and that's a different story.

materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 1:14:45 AM
re: Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn Does anyone need a big router? At what point do you just strip the headers out of IP traffic and put giant circuit-like streams on optical switches? Seems as though a logical setup is lots of electrical/smart switching in MSAs, then rail-like optical transport between them. With truly large streams and low prices, are giant routers with $1M blades affordable?

What can GigBE teach us here? SCMR, where are you?
Tony Li 12/5/2012 | 1:14:41 AM
re: Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn
Two points here:

First, IP traffic (unlike the PSTN) does not seem to generate a great deal of geographic locality. That provides added stress on the cores.

Second, while the need is not for immediate usage today, there is a clear future need. Carriers have been paying for many generations of forklift replacement of core routers. They dislike this both from a cost perspective as well as an operational perspective. They would very much like to have a system that can grow incrementally, without the forklift. While the immediate market is for single units, the eventual growth of these installations is quite clear to all. The carriers are quite adamant that they want to see working product before buying into any scalability story, so the vendors do need to pony up with working scalable architectures before they sell the tiniest of installs.

So yes, there is a need.

Tony Li 12/5/2012 | 1:14:41 AM
re: Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn

You're absolutely right, as the scale of the network increases, it pays to increase the density of the topology and avoid intermediate switching steps. However, that doesn't mean that you can get rid of them completely. At some level if you want to aggregate traffic to take advantage of the stat muxing, then you also have to deaggragate that same traffic.

Thus, you have something like a metro area that needs to eventually absorb something like terabytes of bandwidth and distribute it.

volkot 12/5/2012 | 1:14:40 AM
re: Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn > so the vendors do need to pony up with working > scalable architectures before they sell the
> tiniest of installs

True, multichassis capability might boost sales just by itself, just like the halo cars do for the auto manufacturers.

But, per definition, multichassis is only effective in scenario where traffic growth outpaces traditional switching architectures. As soon as the latest silicon catches up, multichassis instantly loses to a faster and more compact single-box design.
It sounds extremely unlikely that someone will ignore forklift upgrade option in order to invest into dozen or more bulky, unholy expensive and unreliable VCSEL interconnected racks.
So, unless the volume of traffic will start outrunning the Moore's Law again, multichassis behemoths might remain as rare and practical as concept cars, being so wrong to everyone but few.
Tony Li 12/5/2012 | 1:14:39 AM
re: Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn
First, the volume of traffic continues to be about 100% per year, which is well above Moore's law.

Second, Moore's law doesn't apply to bandwidth. In particular, single box switch architectures are limited by signal integrity issues and serial link speeds, not by the speed or density of the transistors.

Third, yes, multichassis may not be the ultimate "correct" answer in engineering terms, but you need to recall that the customers are looking for investment protection, not optimal technology. The forklift upgrade plan has them replacing their systems every 18 months, which is considerably faster than their depreciation cycle. You need to integrate this out over a 10 to 15 year horizon to see the implications. Also, don't forget that technological advances in the individual chassis DO get applied, the only required constant is the interconnect architecture and the ability to perform a rolling upgrade.

volkot 12/5/2012 | 1:14:36 AM
re: Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn > Also, don't forget that technological advances > in the individual chassis DO get applied, the
> only required constant is the interconnect
> architecture and the ability to perform a
> rolling upgrade

This is precisely why I do not see the need for anything beyond low-volume 4x or 8x multichassis systems for the high end of the market. Interconnects are not free of the signal integrity issues found in traditional systems, they just use the brute force approach to fight them (i.e. surface lasers vs. copper traces). On top of that, interconnected shelves always need more supplemental hardware (supervisor modules, power, sheet metal, etc) when compared to a single box, while a traditional router may still avoid forklifts by a series of technology upgrades. Furthemore, if the real-world demand will outrun the state-of-the-art tech so much that multichassis interconnects will become common, the pain of TCO may soon become high enough to generate the need for another breakthrough startup.
Tony Li 12/5/2012 | 1:14:35 AM
re: Juniper's TX Waits Its Turn
Well, what can I say? The industry does not have a good track record of delivering technology upgrades without forklifts. In fact, it doesn't even have a good record on technology upgrades even WITH forklifts.

I suspect that this perception and the mission critical nature of the core router is sufficient to preclude any argument that requires that the vendor be trusted to deliver.

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