In an age when router hardware and functions are becoming increasingly virtualized, the leading router vendors are not about to let the industry forget the value they can bring via a good, old-fashioned capacity upgrade.
Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) today announced numerous upgrades to its MX Series 3D Universal Edge Router family.
The company also announced that XO Communications Inc. is to deploy the MX2020 router, as well as Juniper's PTX5000 Packet Transport Router.
The new enhancements to the MX Series include what could be regarded as a reminder of old-fashioned router power at a time when virtualization and software-defined networking (SDN) are ushering in a new era of packet networking: Juniper's new line cards and switch fabric modules boost per-slot bandwidth to 520 Gbit/s on the MX2020 and MX2010 routers, and roughly double the switch fabric capacity on the MX960, MX480, and MX240. The MX960, for example, jumps from 2.3 Tbit/s to 5.3 Tbit/s.
But, perhaps even more significant than the raw upgrades is the fact that the additional capacity is being delivered non-disruptively on the same equipment chassis already deployed in customer networks. "If you bought an MX960 when it came out in 2008, you got 480 Gbit/s, and now we're talking about 10-times capacity on that same chassis to 5.3 Tbit/s," says Tom DiMicelli, product marketing manager at Juniper's service provider division. "That's investment protection for service providers," he chimed.
Juniper is also boasting that its new line cards can support up to 128,000 subscriber sessions, while new services cards increase application throughput to up to 60 Gbit/s.
All of the new line cards, switch fabric cards, and services cards will be shipping at different times between now and the first half of 2014.
But even though the latest update is about speeds and feeds, this doesn't mean Juniper doesn't want to talk about SDN.
All year Juniper has made a big deal of just how SDN-ready its router platforms are, and it recently made a big splash with the debut of its Contrail SDN controller. (See Juniper Opens SDN, Clouds OpenDaylight and Juniper's SDN Will Build Service Chains.)
DiMicelli says the company understands how SDN could change the router game, but that it won't diminish the need for ongoing bandwidth upgrades.
"It's the hope that by allocating bandwidth resources more flexibly, you can achieve maximum bandwidth efficiency, but there will always be a need for hardware and software system capacity upgrades," he says. "I don't think any innovation going on in the industry will put an end to the cramming of more bandwidth, subscribers and services on a given platform."
It may also be true that the ongoing virtualization of hardware may not so harshly affect the sales of vendors that focus their upgrades on existing chassis rather than pushing customers to entirely new hardware. "We want service providers to be able to implement our platform with their best-intention forecasting, and to still be able to adapt on the same platform if things change," DiMicelli says. "It's true that service providers can use that flexibility to forestall investment in upgrades until the last second, but that's okay," he adds.
— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading