Routers Are Winning the MPLS War

The ponytails – the folk in charge of IP networks within carriers – appear to be winning the argument over whether routers or multiservice switches should be used to build converged MPLS backbones, according to market statistics released by Infonetics Research Inc. earlier this week (see Service Provider Routers, Switches Up in Q4).

In the past year, there's been a "dramatic" swing towards the use of routers rather than multiservice switches, reports Infonetics. In 2002, the ratio was 56 percent routers to 44 percent multiservice switches. In 2003, this shifted to 63 percent routers, 37 percent multiservice switches.

Probably making life difficult for Infonetics is that fact that the difference between routers and multiservice switches is blurring – so much so that some vendors now call their equipment "switch/routers."

While the overall picture is good news for the router market, some vendors are benefitting more than others, according to recent statistics from Synergy Research Group Inc. (see Synergy: Router Market Up 1% in Q4).

Table 1: Edge Routers: U.S. Market Share by Revenue
2001 2002 2003
Cisco 49.6% 64.0% 62.0%
Juniper 15.3% 13.8% 21.3%
Lucent 1.8% 0.7% 0.1%
Nortel 11.4% 5.5% 6.5%
Redback 10.1% 9.1% 6.0%
Riverstone 2.2% 1.3% 3.3%
Unisphere 7.3% 4.0% 0.0%
Source: Synergy Research Group Inc.

Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) appears to be the big winner, boosting its share of the U.S. edge-router market to 21.3 percent last year from 13.8 percent the year before. Juniper's acquisition of Unisphere's router business in July 2002 appears to have helped. Together in 2003, they've proved to be greater than the sum of their parts in 2002.

Some of Juniper's extra oomph probably also came from resale agreements with Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Siemens Information and Communications Networks Inc. Siemens says that it now accounts for 20 percent of Juniper's sales (see Siemens Jumps for Juniper). Lucent and Nortel don't sell anything like this volume, judging by Synergy's figures.

It's worth noting that Riverstone Networks Inc. more than doubled its market share last year, moving from a mere 1.3 percent in 2002 to 3.3 percent in 2003. This ties in with comments made by one of its customers, the U.K.'s Exponential-e Ltd. Its managing director, Lee Wade, told Light Reading recently that Riverstone had the best MPLS story in 2002, but added that other vendors had caught up since then (see Exponential-e: What Yipes Wasn't).

Wade said he was particularly impressed with the way Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) had improved its MPLS story, but added: "Cisco won't talk to us, because we've got a Riverstone network."

Maybe that explains why Cisco's market share shrunk a little in 2003?

— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading

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xbar 12/5/2012 | 2:21:38 AM
re: Routers Are Winning the MPLS War Once again LR shows his JNPR bias. If one takes the 13.8% and 7.8% Unisphere market share (the JNPR aquisition was in mid year) one can see that they did not gain market share, on the opposite they slightly lost 21.6% vs 21.3%.

gottappp 12/5/2012 | 2:21:37 AM
re: Routers Are Winning the MPLS War Hmm, Let's see now. Unisphere acquisition was half way through 2002, which means Unisphere's portion of the second half of 2002 shows up under the Juniper total for 2002.
1/2 Juniper + 1/2 Unisphere + 1/2*(Juniper + Unisphere) = Juniper + Unisphere.
Its called the commutitive law.

Who needs to learn math, xbar?
inlight 12/5/2012 | 2:21:37 AM
re: Routers Are Winning the MPLS War Hmmm...
Cisco fan...why not talk about 62% in 2003 vs 64% in 2002?

PacketProtector 12/5/2012 | 2:21:26 AM
re: Routers Are Winning the MPLS War How is it that Redback had a 10.1% share of the "edge router" market in 2001? They didn't even HAVE an edge router in 2001! The Siara aquisition had gone through, but all they shipped in 2001 was a transport box and the DSL SMS'es. No MPLS, no router...

Given that I don't trust any of these numbers.
sigint 12/5/2012 | 2:21:17 AM
re: Routers Are Winning the MPLS War Working through the heaps of marketing definition, when does an equipment cease to be a switch and earns the label of router?

For instance, some amount of hardware assist exists in almost every router. If, for instance, the address lookup is relegated to dedicated HW, does the equipment cease to be a router?
atmguy 12/5/2012 | 2:21:15 AM
re: Routers Are Winning the MPLS War
Original distinction was most switches forward data thru hardware (which are of course programmed by SW) where as routers might use hardware to facilitate faster routing but mostly the logic is in software.

Anyway, that is what I understand.
jscott 12/5/2012 | 2:21:11 AM
re: Routers Are Winning the MPLS War sigint writes:

> Working through the heaps of marketing
> definition, when does an equipment cease
> to be a switch and earns the label of
> router?

per the canonical definition, a switch
forwards based on information in the
layer 2 header (Ethernet dst address,
Frame Relay DLCI, ATM VPI/VCI, etc)
while a router forwards based on
information in the L3 header and
above (IP dst addr, etc).

with the migration toward MPLS, the
distinction becomes slightly more
blurred, however not *that* much.
switches will now switch on info
from the layer 2.5 (MPLS) header,
while router functionality will
continue to include those
capabilities in addition to
those functionalities enabled
by processing info from higher
layers in the protocol stack.


di 12/5/2012 | 2:21:03 AM
re: Routers Are Winning the MPLS War
The distinction is not based on whether a
product does L3+ forwarding in hardware.
Most high end routers today use dedicated
hardware for the forwarding plane - similar
to switches - and both switches and routers
can look at L3+ headers when making a
forwarding decision. Any MPLS switch worth
more than its sheet metal needs to support
forwarding of L3 traffic in hardware if it
wants to act as a LER.

Today, the distinction is based more on the
evolutionary history of a product - whether
it has 'pure' L2 switching roots or L3 roots
and whether L3+ forwarding and support for
'services' was built in from the start or
added at a later date. Obviously, there is
also a marketing spin on the distinction.

lr_monger 12/5/2012 | 2:21:02 AM
re: Routers Are Winning the MPLS War The distinction is simply bandwidth-delay buffering. Measured in ms, routers typically have much more than switches.

CoS and QoS are also areas where routers and switches differ, with routers having a richer set of capabilties due their having more flexibility and programmability over switches.

kamalpr 12/5/2012 | 2:20:47 AM
re: Routers Are Winning the MPLS War
A router is a device with s/w that uses dumb hardware to speed up processing.
A switch is a device with intelligent h/w that uses dumb s/w to add on functionality.

Does someone know why lucent called their aborted product lambda router ?

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