Juniper set to roll out Ethernet switches

Juniper set to roll out Ethernet switches

Juniper is set to release its MX-Series, a line of Ethernet-optimized Layer 2-3 routing switches

Juniper is about to put carrier Ethernet switch speculation to rest.

Sources say the company on Oct. 18 will unveil the MX-Series, a line of Ethernet-optimized Layer 2-3 routing switches designed for aggregation at the service-provider edge. Ethernet aggregation heretofore has been a large missing piece in Juniper's portfolio of edge products, especially for IPTV applications.

Indeed, lack of an Ethernet switch cost Juniper share in the IP edge aggregation market and let Alcatel leapfrog the company into second place after Cisco. Juniper has been subject to relentless speculation on its Ethernet switching plans since Alcatel's market-share gains.

The MX-Series will go straight up against Alcatel's 7750 Service Router and eventually the 7450 Ethernet Services Switch (ESS), which was upgraded just this week with a 12-slot, 400Gbps version. It also will pit Juniper against Cisco's 7600 series Metro Ethernet routers. Some sources speculate that the MX-Series even could be morphed into an enterprise backbone or data center switch that would go up against Cisco's Catalyst 6500 and give Juniper another major weapon in its burgeoning enterprise arsenal.

Alcatel is undaunted by the impending Juniper threat.

"There have been rumors of new platforms being launched to compete with Alcatel's highly successful 7450 ESS, but we've yet to see evidence in customer bids or labs, so even if announcements come soon, they're not likely to be generally available until 2007," says Basil Alwan, president of Alcatel's IP Business. "Over the last two years, many of the world's largest carriers have made strategic decisions to use Alcatel's 7450 ESS platform, and the product, together with Alcatel's 7750 Service Router, continues to gain market traction in all regions."

Cisco also is underwhelmed.

"You need to have embedded service intelligence and awareness" in Ethernet aggregation and convergence, says Brendan Gibbs, a Cisco product marketing manager. "The market is able to distinguish between a packet-blasting platform and a service-aware platform. Systems that offer Layer 2-3 enhancements for voice and video help solve real-world problems for customers."

The MX-Series will debut with the MX960, a 14-slot, 480Gbps switch that takes up one third of a telco rack. A 40-port Gigabit Ethernet "dense port card" (DPC) and a four-port 10G Ethernet DPC will be available on first release, which sources expect to happen in the first half of 2007.

In addition to the DPCs, the MX960 will include a switch control board (SCB), a routing engine and eventually a Flexible physical interface card (PIC) Concentrator (MX-FPC). The SCB provides the switch fabric and control board functions, and acts as a carrier for the routing engine.

The routing engine, which is new for the MX-Series, is similar to the routing engine for Juniper's existing T- and M-Series routers. The DPC is a single-wide interface card that supports a maximum of four 10Gbps packet-forwarding engines.

A DPC is similar to an FPC with PICs in the M- and T-Series, sources say. The MX-FPC, meanwhile, will let the MX-Series chassis support PICs, but the MX-FPC and PICs will not be supported at the initial release, sources say.

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