Juniper Finally Unveils Enterprise Switches

Juniper Networks Tuesday broke its silence amid what CEO and chairman Scott Kriens called "a hurricane of rumors," unveiling the pending release of a series of enterprise Ethernet switches the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor hopes will shake up the commoditized switching market and pit Juniper against Cisco as a solid No. 2.

The EX switching line, announced at Juniper's Global Enterprise Event in New York City, is a carrier-class enterprise offering based on Juniper's JUNOS operating system and fills a gaping hole in the networking vendor's product line, an area where San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems has been a dominant force to reckon with. "And the switch is on," Kriens said as he unveiled the new switches to the tune of the Scorpions staple "Rock You Like A Hurricane," as Hurricane was the rumored code name for the switching series. Kriens said the addition of enterprise switches to Juniper's roster -- which many Juniper executives called the industry's worst kept secret -- will enable solution providers to offer a more complete Juniper story, as opposed to offering point solutions like routing, security and application acceleration.

VARs agreed.

"When we sell Juniper, we find ourselves selling it as a more strategic solution than some of the other point products out there," said Dave Gilden, a partner with Acuity Solutions, a Tampa, Fla.-based solution provider. "This will help us paint a more complete solution. It takes a space that is largely viewed as a commodity and it becomes more strategic to us."

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Frank Vitagliano, Juniper's senior vice president of worldwide channels, said a switch offering will strengthen Juniper's channel to the enterprise because solution providers can now offer "a welcome addition" to their customers.

"Many of our partners are selling huge quantities of switching," Vitagliano said. "But they're looking for a strategic partner. Are we going to magically attract every partner out there that's selling a switch? No. And we don't want to do that. We want the high-performance networking market and the VARs and customers who view that as critical."

Juniper, Vitagliano said, can be that strategic partner with that switching component, creating a true end-to-end solution.

"Switching is not new," he said. Juniper, from a channel standpoint, is not new. I view this as a marrying those two. We're not trying to sell a new technology. Everybody wants an alternative. It's not about going to market with a single product and one single vendor. Partners and customers want an alternative."

First in Juniper's new switching line is the EX 3200 series, a fixed-configuration Ethernet platform designed as a standalone solution for low-density regional, branch and corporate locations. The 24- and 48-port EX 3200 offer network access with plug-and-play 10/100/1000BASE-T connectivity. The EX 3200, which will be available in March, will offer full and partial Power over Ethernet (PoE) to support IP-enabled devices like IP phones, security gear and WLAN access points. The EX 3200 also has optional four-port Gigabit Ethernet and two-port 10 GbE uplink modules with pluggable optics to support high-speed connections to other switches or routers. The EX 3200 also has a field-replaceable power supply and fan tray to lower mean time to repair. The EX 3200 is expected to start at $4,000.

Second, Juniper unveiled its Ethernet switches with Virtual Chassis technology, the EX 4200 series. Similar to the EX 3200, the 4200 series offers 24- and 48-port 10/100/1000BASE-T configurations with full or partial PoE and optional GbE and 10 GbE uplink modules, plus a 24-port fiber switch offering 100.1000BASE-X support. Using Virtual Chassis technology, up to 10 EX 4200 series switches can be interconnected over a 128 Gbps backplane, creating a single virtual switch supporting up to 480 10/100/1000BASE-T ports and up to 40 GbE or 20 10 GbE uplink ports. All EX 4200 switches include high-availability features such as redundant, hot-swappable internal power supplies and field-replaceable, multi-blower fan trays to help deliver maximum uptime. The EX 4200, also available in March, starts at $6,000.

Lastly, Juniper unveiled the modular EX 8200 series of Terabit Ethernet switches for high-performance and high-density 10GbE core and aggregation deployments. Juniper will have two EX 8200 switches in its portfolio: the 8208, an eight-slot 1.6 Terabit chassis and the 8216, a 16-slot 3.2 Terabit chassis. The EX 8200 series will offer high wire-speed 10bE port densities: 64 ports in the eight-slot chassis and 128 ports in the 16-slot chassis. Two fully-equipped 16-slot EX 8200 switches will fit in a 42-unit rack and offer 256 wire-speed 10GbE ports per rack. The EX 8200 series will be based on three Juniper ASICs: the switch fabric from its MX series, its packet forwarding engine and an interconnection of the two. Juniper did not reveal a list price for the EX 8200 series, but said it will be available in the second half of 2008.

NEXT: A Strong Alternative?

The three switch lines have integrated security with Juniper's Unified Access Connect (UAC) and IPS capabilities. They are interoperable with Microsoft's Network Access Protect (NAP) and unified communications offerings; IBMs Tivoli network management software and applications; and several offerings from Oracle.

According to Hitesh Sheth, Juniper's executive vice president and general manager, the EX switches will offer operational simplicity, since all run on the JUNOS operation system and all software updates for JUNOS come from a single release train, regardless of whether it's routing or switching. Additionally, Sheth said, the switching line and other JUNOS devices are managed by a common element management system.

If implemented correctly, Sheth said, the EX 4200 can generate a 65 percent savings in power costs while also taking up 80 percent less space. He said the Virtual Chassis technology offers a "pay as your grow model."

Sheth added that all three series in the new switch line are MPLS ready and offer graceful protocol restoration. "We are advancing the economics of networking," he said.

Kriens said Juniper has several thousand channel partners lined up and ready to sell the EX line once it's available. He said the lineup rounds out Juniper's offerings.

"Instead of having to only focus on routing, security and application acceleration, switching can be the underpinning that holds it all together," Kriens said.

Gilden said the channel will be able to leverage Juniper's switch offerings in two ways; first as an entry point into customers that require a network refresh or redesign, or second as an enhancement to Juniper's routing or security stories.

"There's an organic excitement that's built within Juniper's core channel," he said. Gilden estimated that the introduction of a switching line will likely help him sell more complete solutions. Gilden said that in 2006 roughly 80 percent of his Juniper sales were security related, with the remainder as infrastructure. He said he expects 2008 to see an even 50-50 split between security and infrastructure solutions, partially due to the EX line.

"It's all coming together; it's all part of the same story," he said. "The solution providers that only stick to the core security are going to be hard pressed to compete because they won't be able to offer complete solutions. Solution providers who only focus on networking are also going to be left behind."

Vitagliano said Juniper has already targeted and trained a good number of partners on the switching platforms. They have been updated on sales, service and technology and post sales, he said. Of the 250 top partners Juniper targeted for training, roughly 75 percent are up and running and Vitagliano said he expects to have met or exceeded his target by June.

Gilden said training has gone smoothly mostly because of the JUNOS operating system. He said it's compelling for VARs to offer services around JUNOS.

"It's very relevant for competitive positioning," he said, adding that Juniper VARs can now offer switching to both heterogeneous and homogeneous networks environments.

Vitagliano said the inherent simplicity, low operating costs and the integration of an end-to-end solution JUNOS brings to the table in a switching platform will be attractive to VARs.

"No VAR can go to market and be successful with one vendor's products," he said. "Most VARs, given the opportunity to put together a solution from a strategic vendor, will opt for that."