Juniper Set To Unveil Switch, VARs Ready

Ethernet switch

A switch offering couldn't come at a more opportune time for Juniper, which Thursday reported its highest quarterly revenue in the company's history, with net revenues of $809.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2007, a 36 percent jump over revenue of $595.8 million in same quarter of 2006.

The switch line, code-named Hurricane because of Juniper's custom-made ASIC, will launch Juniper into a crowded market and give VARs a competing player to pit against well-established switch vendors like Cisco Systems, Foundry Networks and ProCurve Networking by HP. Still, some VARs are left wondering if it's too late for Juniper to enter a crowded and commoditized market.

Juniper has remained tightlipped about the prospect of its upcoming switch line and would neither confirm nor deny that an announcement is coming, despite massive amounts of rumors and speculation that Hurricane is ready to be unveiled as early as Tuesday.

"We understand that there has been some industry speculation in this area," a Juniper spokesperson said, declining to comment further.

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Sources have said that Juniper's switching line will be based on its JUNOS operating system, which the vendor recently announced is open to third-party developers. The switches are expected to run on Marvell chips, the same Foundry uses, and hit price points similar to both Foundry and Cisco.

Through several interviews, CRN has learned that the switches will be 100-Gig ready, meaning each slot in the modular form factor will be able to support bandwidth of up to 100 Gbps. The modular switches, the six-, nine- and 13-solt models, will eventually support line cards with 10 10-Gbps Ethernet ports, though that support is likely not to be available in the initial launch. Lastly, the high-end core switch is expected to support up to 4.5 Tbps of capacity.

The release schedule for Juniper's enterprise Ethernet switches, one source said, will start with stand-alone switches coming in the first quarter of 2008; followed by virtual chassis-based stackable switches with a backplane architecture to link them together into one logical unit in the second or third quarter. Lastly, the core switch is expected to follow in the fourth quarter.

"The core switches are taking the most development because of the nature of the performance and some of the things they have to do, so that's why those are coming last," the source said.

With Cisco holding 71 percent of the market share in the enterprise Ethernet switch market, according to figures from the Yankee Group, and ProCurve at a distant second with 10 percent, VARs wonder if Juniper will be able to hold its own in the switch market and become a viable No. 2 contender.

Stuart Brainerd, president of Chicago-based Synapse Networking, said an enterprise switching portfolio will be an uphill battle for Juniper, but it has become a necessary component among Juniper's current product offerings. Brainerd noted, however, that he's "cautiously optimistic" about the road ahead.

"If they do want to be a competitor to Cisco, they don't have a choice," he said. "They'll never get anywhere close to Cisco without that segment. Juniper has done a very good, professional job building their name and building their channel. If they really do come out with a switch, we'll get some business with it."

But Juniper's entrance into the enterprise Ethernet switching market will pit it directly against Cisco, a tough challenge Juniper will face.

"If Juniper ever really wants to take on Cisco, they have to address that core switching piece," he said. "When they launch it, if they do launch a switch, I think it'll be hard for Juniper. Juniper has the problem of going up against Cisco. They're not going to touch the Catalyst switches. The driving force for Cisco starts at the Catalyst and grows out from there and Juniper wants to be an alternate to that."

Jeff Hiebert, CEO of ROI Networks, a San Juan Capistrano, Calif.-based solution provider, said key challenges for Juniper as it enters the switch market lie with money, marketing and mind share. Hiebert said Juniper needs to make a big splash to build itself up as a worthy foe for Cisco switching.

"It's going to take a lot of investment, successful marketing and education of the channel on how to position it," he said. "Juniper wants to own the core and attack Cisco and compete where no one else has been able to."

Hiebert said if Juniper takes the right steps, it stands a good change of becoming a strong No. 2 to Cisco's No. 1.

"People are demanding a Coke and a Pepsi in this market," he said. "This is not a 'me too' play, this is the next generation of Ethernet switching."