NEW YORK-Juniper Networks made its official foray into the enterprise switching space on Jan. 29 when it launched its new, home-grown EX Series of stackable and chassis LAN switches.
Now it has to convince enterprise network buyers who by and large use Cisco Systems’ Catalyst switches in their wiring closets and data centers to make the switch to a vendor known for providing service providers with carrier-class routers.
Juniper officials believe the company can do so with its new EX Series by virtue of the single software image provided across its product line in its JUNOS operating system. Juniper is also touting the wire-speed performance provided by the switches as well as promising that the switches will help to lower operational costs through reduced power consumption and administrative overhead.
Rather than pitch commodity switching products, Juniper positioned the new EX Series as premium, high-performance LAN switch line aimed at enterprises that view the network as a critical factor in the success of their business, said Scott Kriens, chairman and CEO of Juniper.
“The Wal-Mart strategy is not Juniper’s [strategy]. If the network is needed and critical to the success of the business, then it matters. The enterprise network is open for business in ways it hasn’t been before,” he said.
The new switches include the EX 3200 and EX 4200 fixed configuration switches as well as the EX 8200 Series modular switches in 8-slot and 16-slot models that provide 1.6TB per second and 3.2TB per second capacity, respectively.
Juniper in the EX 4200 created a new Virtual-Chassis technology that allows up to 10 of the stackables to be interconnected in a 128G bps backplane, with all units managed as a single system.
“Customers can deploy Layer 3 end-to-end much more economically than they have in the past. Every virtual chassis system can be treated as one, so customers can reduce the number of managed devices by up to 80 percent. That’s a substantial savings,” said Hitesh Sheth, executive vice president and general manager of Juniper’s switching business. He also said the virtual chassis system affords a 66 percent savings in power consumption.
Goals of the Virtual Chassis system
The aim of the Virtual Chassis system is to eliminate the requirement to pay for capacity in a chassis switch that will not be used right away.
“Every device has a route engine, redundant power supplies and fans are hot swappable. You can have 10 members in a virtual chassis architecture with 480 Gigabit [Ethernet] ports. This density is tremendous leverage for customers who want to pay as you grow. For Gigabit Ethernet aggregation, there is no reason why customers need to pay what they are now paying for modular systems,” said Sheth.
Juniper also integrated its Unified Access Control security and implemented Application-Specific Integrated Circuit-based Sflow support in the new switches to allow users to gather network statistics and identify applications.
The EX 3200 series, aimed at branch or regional offices, provide 24 and 48 ports of 10/100/1000 connectivity with either full or partial power-over-Ethernet support. They offer optional four-port Gigabit Ethernet or two-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet uplinks.
The EX 8200 supports 64 ports or 128 ports.
Juniper, which late last year announced that is it opening up its JUNOS operating system to select partners to allow them to add more value on top of Juniper’s routers, also rallied Independent Software Vendors around the new EX switch line.
“The closed network architectures deployed today forced security applications to the edge of the network and led our clients to build [networks with] hard edges, but soft chewy centers,” quipped Chris Rouland, CTO of IBM’s Internet Security Systems at Juniper’s press event. “The ability to integrate [with JUNOS] opens the network fabric to ISVs,” he added.
Will Cisco customers switch?
Other partners on hand to back up the new JUNOS open interfaces with the E Series launch were Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM’s Tivoli unit.
The question of whether Juniper can be successful in elbowing its way into a mature, established market will take some time to answer, but at least one customer said his organization is willing to give Juniper a shot.
“Reliability, line rate performance, versatility, and Layer 3 at the access layer are factors that would be considered in moving off Cisco,” said Joel Lynch, chief network engineer at CNN Internet Technologies in Atlanta.
Lynch plans to beta test the new E Series switches. “Juniper coming out with switches that can be stacked puts them neck and neck with Cisco for their top of rack switch,” he added.
But it’s unclear whether Juniper can offer enough value to get Cisco customers to switch, according to Zeus Kerravala, industry analyst with the Yankee Group.
“If Juniper wants to change the game, they have to make it more applications-relevant and build an ecosystem (of partners) that leads them to sustainable differentiation,” he said.
But with changes coming as a result of SOA-based applications, virtualization, the adoption of VOIP (voice over IP) and Web 2.0 applications, the need for speed and reduced latency is growing in importance and opening up the network to other vendors, industry others believe.
“There’s a discontinuity in networks and applications that’s opened up new opportunities for another player to enter,” said Nick Lippis, principal at Lippis Consulting.
Changing business models that require faster response to changing market dynamics are also driving network upgrades and opening up the market, said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects.
“Real-time becomes a key word. It cuts down on business latency. And that puts pressure on latency in the network infrastructure. CEO’s are now uttering the L (latency) word,” he said.
Juniper’s emphasis on line-rate performance and high reliability in the EX in that scenario could give it an edge in the market.
“This is the fastest switch we’ve ever tested,” said beta customer Frank Ziegler, vice president of communications for the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. “Juniper is putting that reliability into the enterprise edge,” he added.
The EX 3200 and EX 4200 are due in March. The EX 8200 is due in the second half of this year.