Juniper set to roll out Ethernet switches

MX line to fill major product gap in carrier edge.

Juniper is about to put carrier Ethernet switch speculation to rest.

Sources say the company on Oct. 18 will unveil the MX-Series, a line of Ethernet-optimized Layer 2-3 routing switches designed for aggregation at the service-provider edge. Ethernet aggregation heretofore has been a large missing piece in Juniper’s portfolio of edge products, especially for IPTV applications.

Indeed, lack of an Ethernet switch cost Juniper share in the IP edge aggregation market and let Alcatel leapfrog the company into second place after Cisco. Juniper has been subject to relentless speculation on its Ethernet switching plans since Alcatel’s market-share gains.

The MX-Series will go straight up against Alcatel’s 7750 Service Router and eventually the 7450 Ethernet Services Switch (ESS), which was upgraded just this week with a 12-slot, 400Gbps version. It also will pit Juniper against Cisco’s 7600 series Metro Ethernet routers. Some sources speculate that the MX-Series even could be morphed into an enterprise backbone or data center switch that would go up against Cisco’s Catalyst 6500 and give Juniper another major weapon in its burgeoning enterprise arsenal.

Alcatel is undaunted by the impending Juniper threat.

“There have been rumors of new platforms being launched to compete with Alcatel’s highly successful 7450 ESS, but we’ve yet to see evidence in customer bids or labs, so even if announcements come soon, they’re not likely to be generally available until 2007,” says Basil Alwan, president of Alcatel’s IP Business. “Over the last two years, many of the world’s largest carriers have made strategic decisions to use Alcatel’s 7450 ESS platform, and the product, together with Alcatel’s 7750 Service Router, continues to gain market traction in all regions.”

Cisco also is underwhelmed.

“You need to have embedded service intelligence and awareness” in Ethernet aggregation and convergence, says Brendan Gibbs, a Cisco product marketing manager. “The market is able to distinguish between a packet-blasting platform and a service-aware platform. Systems that offer Layer 2-3 enhancements for voice and video help solve real-world problems for customers.”

The MX-Series will debut with the MX960, a 14-slot, 480Gbps switch that takes up one third of a telco rack. A 40-port Gigabit Ethernet “dense port card” (DPC) and a four-port 10G Ethernet DPC will be available on first release, which sources expect to happen in the first half of 2007.

In addition to the DPCs, the MX960 will include a switch control board (SCB), a routing engine and eventually a Flexible physical interface card (PIC) Concentrator (MX-FPC). The SCB provides the switch fabric and control board functions, and acts as a carrier for the routing engine.

The routing engine, which is new for the MX-Series, is similar to the routing engine for Juniper’s existing T- and M-Series routers. The DPC is a single-wide interface card that supports a maximum of four 10Gbps packet-forwarding engines.

A DPC is similar to an FPC with PICs in the M- and T-Series, sources say. The MX-FPC, meanwhile, will let the MX-Series chassis support PICs, but the MX-FPC and PICs will not be supported at the initial release, sources say.

When it does ship, an MX-FPC will be a double-wide line card that holds one or two M- or T-Series PICs, they say.

The 14 open slots on the MX960 hold 12 line cards and two SCBs in a nonredundant configuration, or three SCBs and 11 line cards in a redundant configuration. Two routing engines also will be available: a 1GHz/1,024MB version and a 2GHz/2,048MB option.

QoS features will include eight queues per port, four scheduling priorities, weighted random early discard, per-port and per-queue-per-port shaping, and 802.1p and Differentiated Services code point frame and packet manipulation.

For scale, the MX960 will support 16,000 virtual LANs per packet-forwarding engine. On a per-system basis, the MX960 will support 16,000 MPLS Label Switched Path head-ends, one million IPv4 and IPv6 routing-information base entries, one million IPv4 and IPv6 forwarding-information base entries; 25,000 Virtual Private LAN Services (VPLS) labels; 4,000 Border Gateway Protocol sessions, 500 Open Shortest Path First sessions, 500 Intermediate-System-to-Intermediate-System adjacencies, and 100 Label Distribution Protocol sessions.

On the software side, when it ships, the MX960 will run JUNOS with Release 7.4 feature parity. Two releases after the initial shipment will bulk up the switch’s Level 2 capabilities, with features such as integrated routing and bridging, control plane -- Spanning Tree, Rapid Spanning Tree and VLAN-aware Spanning Tree, increased VPLS scaling and performance, firewall and QoS extensions for Layer 2 filtering, and Layer 2 statistics and instrumentation, sources say.

Juniper customer BellSouth was tight-lipped regarding the MX960 but seems to be aware of it.

“We have not announced any intentions or use of the router to date and we are not in a position to comment further at this time,” a BellSouth spokesman stated in an e-mail.

In addition to the 14-slot MX960, in the future Juniper plans to unveil a six-slot MX-Series chassis that uses the MX960 line cards and other components, sources say. The line cards will support per-VLAN queuing on DPCs with 20 to 30 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and one or two 10G Ethernet ports, they say.

Other future enhancements may include a “Service DPC” -- a line card that provides hardware acceleration for an array of packet processing-intensive services, such as stateful firewall, network address translation, IPSec, tunnel services and flow accounting. Another enhancement may include a SONET DPC, which would bring native SONET support to the MX-Series, sources say.

Another Ethernet DPC also could be in the works, they say, one that sports 32 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet ports for lower density requirements.

Under consideration at Juniper, sources say, are an eight- or nine-slot MX-Series chassis, a fixed configuration, "mini” chassis for lower-cost deployments, and high-density, oversubscribed DPCs with fine-grained QoS to provide a lower cost per port than line-rate ports.

Planned software enhancements include JUNOS feature parity; tunnel services native to the DPCs; Layer 2 scaling features, such as 250,000 source and destination media-access-control addresses per packet-forwarding engine; and 64 Spanning Tree instances per system. Future software enhancements may also include IEEE 802.1ag and 802.3ah support and nonstop routing, sources say.

Juniper would not confirm the information on the MX-Series.

Into the MXWhere Juniper's new Ethernet edge aggregation product fits:
Juniper productNetwork locationSystem bandwidthDensity sweet spotChassis per rack
M40eMed/large points of presence>40Gbps8 OC-482
M320Large POPs320Gbps10 10G Ethernet/OC-1922
MX960Metro Ethernet/Ethernet-centric edge960Gbps (480G full duplex)480G Ethernet, 48 10G Ethernet3
T320Small-core POPs320Gbps16 OC-1923
T640Large-core POPs640Gbps8 OC-7682

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