ANAHEIM, Calif. -- OFC/NFOEC -- Juniper Networks Inc. has developed its own two-port 100Gbit/s cards for the PTX Series Packet Transport Switch, hoping to lead the way into the next generation of the converged boxes.
The cards are being announced Monday along with the PTX3000, a more compact version of the system.
The 100Gbit/s cards will work on the original PTX5000, too, and one would imagine they would also function with the PTX9000. Juniper no longer promotes the PTX9000 core-grade system, even though the product is not dead and is still shippable, according to Sterling Perrin, an analyst at Heavy Reading. (See Juniper Prunes Back Its Packet-Optical Plan.)
But we're getting distracted.
The main thing is that Juniper is coming to OFC/NFOEC with a sudden and very strong claim on being an optical company. At the same time, it's still a router vendor -- and, in fact, Juniper, to the surprise of many, is claiming the PTX was a router all along.
More on that later. First, though, those optical cards.
Juniper began building its optical team in 2010 with 100Gbit/s in mind. Even so, one might have expected Juniper to enlist its usual optical partners, ADVA Optical Networking and/or Nokia Siemens Networks, to produce the new cards.
Juniper's internal development is a testament to the importance of both halves in packet/optical convergence. The trend "is bringing in players who didn't used to compete in optical. I would include Juniper in that," Perrin tells Light Reading.
Juniper claims it's engineered the heck out of its new 100Gbit/s cards, so that they can be implemented with the same density as non-DWDM, client-side optics. The heavier electronics burden of the line side usually results in lower density.
Those kinds of specifics are why Juniper wanted to control the 100Gbit/s technology itself. "We believe the best recipe for putting a very competitive solution out there is to leverage the technology ourselves," says Rami Rahim, executive vice president of Juniper's platform systems division.
(He adds that ADVA is "still a very good partner." Nokia Siemens's optical business has become the foundation of Coriant, a new optical vendor being created by Marlin Equity Partners, so it's unclear what that means for the relationship with Juniper.)
Of course, the success of Juniper's strategy is dependent on near-term and ongoing significant operator demand for converged packet/optical platforms.
"To the extent that this market will integrate the packet domain with the optical domain, I think we will be very well positioned to go after it," Rahim says. "It's very difficult to predict the uptick here. There's going to be a natural cycle of acceptance for this convergence."
The cards, with a reach of 2,000 km, are due to ship in the second half of 2013. Rahim wouldn't say if any customers are even using the cards in trials yet.
PTX's little sibling
As for the PTX3000, it fills half of a 7-foot telecom rack and can hold eight of the new two-port 100Gbit/s blades, for a total of 16 100Gbit/s coherent interfaces.
With 1.92 Tbit/s of capacity, or 3.84 Tbit/s if you're double-counting, the PTX3000 has half the capcity of the PTX5000. The PTX3000 is also thinner, in that two of them can sit back-to-back, facing opposite directions, in a telecom rack.
It's a thinner box, in the sense that it's only 300mm deep. That's typical of optical transport equipment. Routers, by contrast -- and the PTX5000 -- take up the entire depth of a rack, whereas optical gear is thin enough to be deployed back-to-back in a single rack.
Most optical gear is that thin, Rahim says. Routers and switches, by contrast, fill the entire rack. The disparity has been a stumbling block, because packet-optical transport systems (P-OTS) have been the size of routers, Rahim says.
The PTX3000 also has smaller ambitions than the PTX5000, as the numbers would indicate. The PTX5000 was intended for a network "supercore," whereas the PTX3000 has more of a metro world in mind.
"On paper, it looks good. It's squaring up with some trends I've seen in the metro," Perrin says.
A router after all
Perhaps the strangest twist to the PTX evolution story is that the box has had IP routing all along, as Juniper told Perrin.
Analysts, including Perrin, had initially understood the PTX to be a core-router alternative -- a Layer 2, MPLS-based label-switched router (LSR) that saved costs by omitting IP routing. "That was their initial play," Perrin tells Light Reading.
That's apparently not the case. In fact, a research note being published by Perrin Monday mentions that Juniper was bothered by the PTX not getting fair comparisons to core routers such as the Cisco Systems Inc. CRS-3 and Alcatel-Lucent 7950 Extensible Routing System (XRS).
"At this time, we are not clear on the functional differences between a PTX 5000 and a CRS-3, but it is clear that the marketing has changed," Perrin writes in his Monday note.
— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading