A year after entering the competitive data center switching space, Juniper is rolling out the latest EX Ethernet switch, the EX2500, and outlining its long-term strategy, dubbed The Stratus Project. The moves bring Juniper into even closer competition with the likes of Cisco, Brocade, Extreme and Nortel in an area of the industry that is getting a lot of attention from vendors. Fueling the need for a better networking fabric in the data center are such trends as the growth of virtualization, dense server architectures and multicore processors, the increase in the number of applications, and rising data center consolidation projects.
Juniper, a strong player in the service provider and carrier spaces, made
its first step into the data center a year ago with the release of its first EX
Ethernet switch, a move that brought it once again into competition
with the likes of Cisco Systems and Extreme Networks.
Over the next few months, Juniper will be adding to the EX Series product
family and its other data center technologies, part of an overarching
initiative dubbed "The Stratus Project," which is under the aegis of the
company's newly announced Data Center Business Group.
On Feb. 24, the same day that company officials unveiled The Stratus
Project, they also rolled out the latest Ethernet switch, the EX2500 10 GbE
(Gigabit Ethernet) switch.
In operation internally for more than a year, the initiative is being headed
up by David Yen, executive vice president of emerging technologies and a former
longtime Sun Microsystems executive.
In an interview, Yen said that various trends within data centers are
driving the need for a single 10 GbE networking fabric that can reliably and
securely handle all aspects of the data center-from servers and storage devices
to appliances, applications and network traffic-and that can scale as needed
without adding complexity.
Juniper's goal with its Stratus Project is to give customers the products
and technologies to meet those demands.
"Data centers will grow larger," he said. "A new, adequate solution must be
Juniper introduced its first data center offerings in November, and has
since rolled out other products in its line of EX Series Ethernet switches, MX
Series Ethernet services routers and SRX
Series services gateways. Yen said more products will be released in the coming
Company officials said that with the products they already offer, customers
are seeing a difference. Juniper's current offerings, by increasing capacity
and reducing complexity, can help businesses reduce TCO
by up to 52 percent, cut power and cooling costs by up to 44 percent each, and
lower rack space in the data center by 55 percent.
A long list of trends-including the consolidation of data centers, the rise
in the use of virtualization and the number of applications, the increasing
density in the facilities fueled by such technologies as blade servers and
multicore processors, and the promise of cloud computing-is driving the need
for new networking capabilities.
As density in the data centers has grown, so has the number of networking
layers, Yen said. Many facilities have as many as three or four layers of
Ethernet networking to keep up with the explosive growth of data center
resources and network traffic, all of which hurts latency times and increases
Having a more streamlined and less complex fabric can help reduce the number
of networking layers needed, which will help curtail problems and enable
businesses to grow their data centers to take advantage of such technologies as
cloud computing and virtualization.
"If you don't support a converged fabric ... you're limiting flexibility"
within the data center, Yen said.
Cisco and other companies, such as Extreme and Brocade, saw this and already
are pushing forward with products ahead of Juniper, Yen said. And that will be
among the bigger challenges facing Juniper as it makes its push into the data
For example, Cisco, which is looking to increase its presence in the data
center, is looking to growth its Data
Center 3.0 initiative
. The company is looking to give enterprises a
one-stop shopping place for all their data center needs by offering a slew of
new and traditional technologies. Cisco is also partnering with VMware on the
virtualization front, and there are rumors that it is looking for a way into
the server business.
In addition, Cisco is building out its Nexus Series of switches, which it
kicked off in January 2008 with the release of the Nexus 7000.
Nortel Networks in January also launched a new offering, the ERS
series line of Ethernet switches aimed at unified communications
projects at large enterprises.
Also in January, Brocade rolled out the DCS-4S
Backbone, a switching platform that officials say eases data center
consolidation projects and reduces infrastructure and management costs.
Another challenge for Juniper
will be the economy. According to a Feb. 24 report from Infonetics
Research, the Ethernet switch market, which started strongly in 2008, tailed
off markedly in the second half as the recession kicked in. Revenues were down
7 percent from the third to the fourth quarter in 2008, and down 2 percent from
the fourth quarter in 2007. However, the North American market was still
strong-up 2.6 percent over 2007-and there was a shift in the sales mix to
higher-priced products, which could bode well for profit margins.
Despite the hurdles, both Yen and Andy Ingram, vice president of marketing
and business development at Juniper, believe the company can gain strong
traction in the data center. The company has a strong history in such areas as
security, with its VPNs and firewalls offerings, and both men said Juniper not
only is preparing to roll out solid products, but also has a strong road map in
place that customers can rely on.