Juniper extends Carrier Ethernet line; enterprise next?

Juniper Networks this week is expanding its Carrier Ethernet switch/router line with two smaller form factor platforms, higher density modules and software enhancements.

At the same time, Juniper officials indicated that they may be close to unveiling an Ethernet LAN switching line specifically for the enterprise market. Juniper's entrance into enterprise LAN switching has been the source of speculation and anticipation for some time.

(Juniper's Carrier Ethernet announcement follows one last week by Cisco.)

For carriers, meanwhile, Juniper rolled out the MX240 and MX480 Ethernet Services Routers, two smaller versions of the MX960 ESR introduced late last year. The MX240 and MX480 are aimed at smaller service provider points of presence with space, power and cost restrictions, but nonetheless looking to broaden Ethernet services into more markets.

The MX240 delivers 240Gbps of switching or routing capacity in a 5 rack unit (RU) form factor; the MX480 features 480Gbps of capacity in an 8 RU size. The platforms can support up to 120 and 240 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, respectively, Juniper says.

Both platforms support over 1 million MAC addresses, Juniper says, and reduce power and cooling costs by as much as 60 percent over competitive systems.

Juniper, citing data from Synergy Research, says the Carrier Ethernet equipment market is expected to surpass $7 billion by 2011 from US$3.7 billion this year, a compounded annual growth rate of 17 percent. The MX line competes with Cisco's 7600 routers and Alcatel's 7750 router and 7450 Ethernet switch.

For greater port density, Juniper also announced three new Dense Port Concentrator (DPC) cards for the MX line. The modules are available in either 40 Gigabit Ethernet or 4 10 Gigabit Ethernet port versions.

The three new DPCs are the DPCE-R, DPCE-X and DPCE-Q. The R version supports full Layer 3 routing or Layer 2 switching; the X supports high density DSLAM or direct customer aggregation; and the Q is designed for business Ethernet services requiring committed bandwidths and QoS, such as those sites migrating from legacy frame relay and ATM data services.

The X supports up to 64,000 queues per card for per-VLAN queuing, Juniper says.

Software enhancements include JUNOS 8.4, which began shipping late last month. JUNOS 8.4 features Layer 2 Ethernet switching specific capabilities, such as the Spanning Tree protocol; virtual private LAN services based on the label distribution protocol or the previously support Border Gateway Protocol; Ethernet operations, administration and management functions, such as support for IEEE 802.1ag for fault management; egress multicasting capabilities for bandwidth efficiency; and multi-homing for reliability and resiliency to the Ethernet edge. These enhancements were expected.

In addition to access, aggregation, edge, core and data center applications for wireline and wireless service providers, Juniper is also targeting large enterprise data centers and metro cores -- especially those of financial institutions and university campuses -- with the MX240 and MX480. But the "crux" of the MX market remains carrier-grade Ethernet switch/routing, says Ravi Medikonda, director of wireline marketing at Juniper.

For more general purpose enterprise Ethernet switching, "we have not publicly announced anything...yet," Medikonda says, declining to elaborate. But an announcement is expected soon.

"We continue to expect Juniper to launch a LAN Ethernet switch by the end of 2007," wrote UBS Warburg analyst Nikos Theodosopoulos in a report this week on Juniper's Ethernet initiatives. "We believe part of Juniper's plan in returning to profitability in its Enterprise business area is by ramping sales of the new LAN Switch product in 2008 after two big years of R&D investment."

Theodosopoulos says Juniper's MX960 is being well received by customers, and that the company is likely to win some business with AT&T next year.

In addition to the MX expansion, Juniper also rolled out three new processor cards for its M320 router. These 10G and 20Gbps Flexible PIC Concentrator-3 (FPC-3) cards use Juniper's I-chip ASIC for increased system performance, scalability and additional QoS capabilities.

The MX480 ESR, DPCE-X Layer 2 switching cards and FPC-3 cards are available now. The DPCE-Q cards will be available in the fourth quarter. The MX240 is expected to be generally available in the first quarter of 2008.

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