Juniper targets Cisco with EX enterprise switch launch

Juniper Networks, the enterprise and carrier infrastructure equipment maker has announced an ambitions move into mainstream enterprise switch networking with the launch of a new range of fixed and virtual chassis-based switches products targeting the Cisco networking heartland.

The EX range comprises three models of enterprise network switch, pulling heavily on technologies usually used by Juniper in its carrier networking and security products. The range covers both smaller businesses looking for fixed configuration switching, up to larger corporate with more complex networks in need of virtual chassis, minimal downtime and advanced configuration and management of network infrastructure.

The entry-level product in the range, the EX 3200 is a fixed configuration gigabit switch for smaller businesses, branch offices and node expansion. It will come in 24 and 48 port configurations and is designed for use in a wiring cabinet. The 3200 will also support partial and full Power over Ethernet (PoE) via hardware upgrades, while optional four-port Gigabit and two-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet uplink modules with pluggable optics can be added to support higher-speed a backbone connections to routers and core networks. Both the power supply and fan tray can be user swapped in the event of failure.

The larger EX 4200 series comes in the same port configurations, but added virtual chassis technology (VCT), pulling on technology used in Juniper's carrier products. Up to 10 4200s can be connected to create via a 128 Gigabit backplane to create a virtual switch supporting up to 480 Gigabit ports. The 4200 supports hot-swapping of the user serviceable power supply and fan tray, as well as redundant power supply and fans for failover in high-availability environments.

"We made a conscious decision to build rather than buy," said Hitesh Sheth, executive vice president and general manager of Juniper Networks.

"We could have bought any number of switching vendors out there, but we feel strongly that to deliver a high performance network, you need integrated hardware and a common operating platform. If we bought, we would have had to make sure that the technology we acquired actually integrated with the rest of our products and that JUNOS would run on it."

The decision to develop an enterprise switch range from the ground up was made two and a half years ago, when making an acquisition was even more financially viable.

"I think that if we had bought a switching vendor it would have been a mistake,' said Sheth.

For the high-end, the EX 8200 borrows the most from the company's existing carrier-class products, focusing on 10 Gigabit Ethernet for large-scale enterprise networks.

Juniper will offer two EX 8200 series switches - an eight-slot 1.6 Terabit chassis and a 16-slot 3.2 Terabit chassis. Two fully-loaded 16-slot EX 8200's will fill a single 42-unit rack, providing 256 wire-speed 10GbE ports per rack.

Yesterday, Cisco announced a new range of its own carrier-grade Nexus 7000 networking products, in a move that at least partly acted as a spoiler to the heavily-leaked Juniper announcement.

All three Juniper models, the EX 3200, 4200 and 8200 all make use of the company's JUNOS operating system. JUNOS is a carrier grade networking appliance platform designed to maintain continuous systems. JUNOS enables IT departments to automate many network operations by providing a single consistent implementation of features across all the network in a single release, rather than having feature differences between builds for each Juniper device.

"Over 90 per cent of internet traffic travels through JUNOS-based hardware, and it has been running in some of the world's largest corporate and carrier networks for the last 12 years, where it has become a hardened and proven technology," said Michael Peachey, senior product marketing manager at Juniper.

"In anticipation of this launch, we have been working with partners over the last few months to broaden focus beyond just security to also cover JUNOS and tackle switching and general networking," he added.

The EX switches go on sale in March, with the EX 3200 starting at $4,000 (2,000), while the EX 4200 series will start at around $6,000 (3,000). Actual UK pricing is still to be confirmed. The larger EX 8200 series is expected to go on sale in the second half of 2008, with pricing to be confirmed.