Juniper's EX: Switch vendors sound off

Juniper's EX: Switch vendors sound off

Nortel, Extreme Networks, others have their say; Cisco stays mum

Juniper Networks says the LAN switching business will soon be a two-horse race now that it finally has entered the market with its EX series systems.

Not so fast, current combatants say. Juniper has the steepest grade to climb.

"Enterprise data is a two horse race -- Nortel and Cisco are it -- Juniper is late out of the gate," a Nortel spokesman writes in an e-mailed reaction to the EX series launch. "Juniper has still to prove itself as a viable enterprise network communications infrastructure provider -- their recent entry intro into the enterprise router market has fallen flat, which lowers the expectation that their Ethernet switching entry would do any better," the spokesman writes. "Juniper doesn't have the channels or sales force to pull this entry off."

The Nortel spokesman goes on to note that Nortel offers a "complete unified communications solution" and that Juniper "is not a serious enterprise solutions player due to a total lack of voice capabilities."

Juniper did announce a partnership with Microsoft this week to endorse the EX series for Microsoft applications, such as Windows Vista identity enforcement and assessment; Windows Server Active Directory; Exchange Server 2007 for calendaring and e-mail; and Office Communications Server 2007 for presence, instant messaging and conferencing. Much of this activity appears to overlap with Nortel's 18-month-old Innovative Communications Alliance with Microsoft for unified communications.

Extreme Networks, meanwhile, says Juniper's EX line "misses the mark" in enterprise switching. "By focusing on fixed-configuration switches in the high-end, Gigabit-to-the-desktop market, Juniper is creating a high-profile message about performance that actually misses the mark when lined up against what enterprises really care about," an Extreme spokesman wrote in an e-mail to Network World.

"Juniper's switch products miss the largest trend happening, namely the proliferation of critical IP devices, including IP phones, wireless LAN access points, and cameras," the Extreme e-mail said. "These IP-connected devices challenge IT managers with specific operational, installation, and maintenance issues that demand a more thoughtful and comprehensive approach to the edge-networking portfolio. These devices don't benefit at all from the pricey, performance-centric approach that Juniper promotes. They require a pragmatic approach and intelligence to manage them efficiently."

HP ProCurve is sticking to its guns even though some of its strategy seems to mesh with Juniper's. "ProCurve's view of a customer's networking needs is that the network must be approached as a holistic ecosystem," says Mark Thompson, ProCurve worldwide director of sales and marketing. "Unified wired and wireless access, consistent functionality and interfaces across core and edge infrastructure elements, integrated security and management capabilities, ongoing service and support availability, along with a track record of innovation and vision of their network's future are a few of the considerations that customers work through when determining the fit of a networking vendor as their partner of choice," he says.

ConSentry Networks, which is morphing from network-access-control appliance vendor to switching vendor, says there's little to the EX launch that differentiates Juniper. "The technical details about the access switches due to ship in March reveal a product line based on the legacy switch architecture, with vanilla Layer2-Layer 3 functionality only, and no unique intelligence for user or application control," says Dan Leary, ConSentry vice president of marketing. "While the company discussed the need for application control, this feature was billed as a future deliverable available in the second half of the year and only as a blade in the chassis switch designed for the LAN core.

"Entering the already crowded LAN switching market, and especially the access switch market, with no leading-edge or differentiated product capabilities will likely make it harder for Juniper to successfully penetrate this market. While we believe customers want a strong alternative to Cisco in LAN switching, and Juniper enjoys strong brand awareness, this product set falls short of today's enterprise demands, and the limited functionality gives companies little reason to consider Juniper during a switch upgrade," Leary says.

Force10 Networks is confident in its current offerings and the fact that they are in the field. "[Juniper] made a splash with their announcement, but that's all it is at this point," a Force10 spokeswoman says. "The industry will continue full speed ahead while they try to get their products to market as the network refresh cycle continues to play out."

Cisco and Foundry Networks declined to comment on the EX launch, but Cisco did provide a laundry list of its switching milestones, past and present, including the Nexus 7000 introduction and recent enhancements to the Catalyst 6500 line, among others.

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