New Juniper SDN device portends forklift upgrades for core Ethernet switch

No 40/100G planned for existing Juniper Networks EX8200 switch; QFabric switch relegated to single-tier 10G data centers

Any hopes Juniper EX8200 customers had that the core switch would grow to support next-generation 40/100G Ethernet, mobility, media-rich traffic, virtualization or cloud have been dashed.

Juniper's new EX9200 programmable switch will be positioned as the company's strategic offering for supporting mobility and media-rich traffic in the campus, and virtualization and cloud computing in the data center, sources familiar with the plans say. The switch, based on Juniper's MX router, is also positioned as the company's "on-ramp" to 40/100G Ethernet, replacing the EX8200 in that role.

The EX9200 will also limit Juniper's QFabric data center switch to 10G-only duty as the company's "lead" platform for single-tier fabrics, sources say. For those customers who are not interested in a single-tier or fabric-based data center network, the upcoming EX9200 will be positioned as the optimal platform in combination with the EX series and/or QFabric 1G/10G Ethernet top-of-rack switches, they say.

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The eight-slot version of the EX9200 is expected to ship later this week, while the four- and 14-slot chassis are expected to ship at the end of April. A 100G Ethernet line card is slated for the fourth quarter, sources say.

Juniper last week confirmed that a new switch is coming but declined further detail until its announcement, which could come as early as next week.

According to a Juniper spokesperson, "QFabric, the EX8200 and the new EX switch are all critical ingredients of Juniper Networks product portfolio. While they differ in capabilities, each product has a clear value proposition for various enterprise networking environments."

The EX9200 will also be positioned as Juniper's optimal platform to support BYOD, data center consolidation, big data and virtual desktop infrastructures through unified policy management and SDN programmability, sources say.

When it was introduced, the EX8200 was touted as Juniper's lead core switching platform for campuses and data centers, with a capacity of 6.2Tbps to 12.4Tbps per chassis to eventually take users into the 40/100G Ethernet realm. Those users may now face a dead end, and a forklift upgrade to the EX9200.

The EX8200 will now be limited to midsize, two-tier 10G data center core/aggregation and campus core environments, sources say. Higher-speed 40/100G Ethernet interfaces are not on the EX8200 roadmap, they say, and users will be encouraged to upgrade to the EX9200 for those capabilities.

It does not appear that the EX9200 will be backward-compatible with EX8200 or MX router line cards either, sources say. EX8200 users may face a complete chassis and line card replacement to upgrade their switching core, they say.

Juniper is instructing EX resellers and sales partners to "reassure" customers who have recently made an investment in the EX8200 based on it being "100G Ethernet ready" by telling them the company is still committed to it in terms of support and incremental investment. Juniper is also instructing partners to tell EX8200 customers the company is committed to assisting in the migration to the EX9200 when 40G/100G bandwidth is required, sources say.

Indeed, Juniper does not plan to end-of-life the EX8200, they say. The company will continue to invest in the platform with IPv6, high availability and network virtualization enhancements, they say.

But Juniper does not have a formal migration program to move existing customers from the EX8200 to the EX9200. The company plans to introduce a 40G "adoption program" when EX9200 ships to help drive initial EX9200 sales among new and existing EX customers, sources say.

Juniper is also instructing partners to encourage customers to stick with the EX8200 for campus and two-tier data center cores if they have no plans to move to 40/100G in the next two to three years, sources say. Also, they are instructing partners to recommend the EX8200 for customers looking for a "distributed core" of four EX8200s, linked via Juniper's Virtual Chassis technology, for multiple locations in the same metro area, they say.

The EX9200 will not support Virtual Chassis at first customer ship, sources say, but is planned for Junos 13.2 afterward. Virtual Chassis also will not require an external routing engine -- XRE -- on the EX9200 like it does on the EX8200, they say.

QFabric, meanwhile, remains Juniper's lead platform for single-tier, high-performance 10G-only implementations in the data center. With the QFX3000-M and QFX3000-G, as well as QFX series stand-alone switches with Multi-Chassis Link Aggregation Group (MC-LAG), there are several options and use cases that Juniper feels make QFabric "compelling," sources say.

The EX9200 will also support MC-LAG at first customer ship, they say.

QFabric will also continue to be positioned as the alternative to Cisco's Nexus 7000 with "F" series cards, which are optimized for high-density, low-power, shallow buffers and limited features, sources say. EX9200 will be positioned against the Nexus 7000 "M" series in the data center, and against Cisco's Catalyst 6500E and HP's 7500/10500/12500 switches in the campus core with large physical or logical scale, and/or 40/100G requirements.

The EX8200, however, will still be positioned as the lead campus core switch to go up against Cisco's Catalyst 6500, based on bandwidth per slot, feature set and the Virtual Chassis technology, sources say. Juniper plans to tout the "four member" implementation of EX8200 in a Virtual Chassis versus the "two member" virtual deployment of the Catalyst 6500, they say.

As for the MX router, which is the foundational platform for the EX9200, Juniper admits some functional overlap but recommends partners steer customers to the EX9200 for a "complete" switching refresh, and to the MX for a WAN refresh. The only components shared between the EX9200 and the MX router are power supplies, fan trays, air filters and power cables; EX9200 chassis, interface cards, routing engine, switch fabric and software license are unique to the platform, sources say.

In addition to 40/100G Ethernet, the EX9200 is being positioned as Juniper's key core platform for increased logical scale needed to support more devices and servers; increased 10G port density; and form factor alternatives, sources say.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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