Juniper connects high-end routers

Juniper Networks on Friday launched a switching matrix for interconnecting multiple high-end carrier routers into a multiterabit-capable system designed to accommodate more service subscribers.

Juniper's TX Matrix, which was first introduced more than two years ago along with the company's T-series core routers, raises the stakes once again in this hotly contested market. Juniper made significant market-share gains at Cisco Systems's expense in the third quarter, despite the introduction of Cisco's ultra-high-end and highly anticipated CRS-1 core router in May.

Although the systems are sold to carriers and services providers, core routers are meaningful to enterprise customers in terms of enabling service-level guarantees. Interconnecting core routers enables scale and higher performance, which lets service providers accommodate more subscribers and help ensure service availability.

"By increasing the size of the core, it would give (service providers) more overhead to be able to offer more services with a known guarantee," says Jeff Ogle, an analyst at Current Analysis. "For the enterprise, you know you'd be safe to turn on filtering or other security features without grossly eating into the throughput of your core backbone."

The TX is a five-slot chassis that fits into a 19-inch telco rack. It holds modules that each support four optical interconnections to a single T640 router for data and control plane redundancy.

Each TX requires five optical connections to a T640. The matrix can therefore connect four T640s at 2.5T bit/sec and 3 billion packet/sec forwarding, which is half the capacity Juniper first quoted for the system when it was introduced -- eight T640s at 5T bit/sec. Juniper now says eight T640s at 5T bit/sec was at the extreme end of its expectations and that a single TX eventually will support more than eight T640s.

As an indication of its potential, T-series product manager Tom Jacobs says one TX now can support 64 T-series packet-forwarding engines (PFE). Juniper has plans to scale that to more than 1,000 PFEs per TX, he says.

Carriers can wait, according to Current Analysis' Ogle. They're currently not going much beyond 1T bit/sec.

T640 routers can be connected to the TX Matrix at distances of up to 328 feet, allowing for both local and distributed deployments, Juniper says. It runs Juniper's Junos operating system software with high-availability features such as Graceful Routing Engine Switchover, In-service Software Upgrades and Bi-directional Forwarding Detection.

The TX has been beta-tested at Deutsche Telekom AG (DT) and Korea Telecom , Jacobs says. DT's T-Com fixed-line division routes more than 35 petabytes of data per month.

Asked if there were any production deployments of the TX among Juniper's 75 T-series customers, Jacobs says the company is not ready to announce production deployments of the system.

Cisco's counter

On the competitive front, Cisco says it can interconnect multiple CRS-1s -- and its switching matrices -- to achieve 92T bit/sec of capacity. Juniper cannot interconnect multiple TXs but says that customers do not require such a capability. Customers will want separate switching matrices for redundancy, Jacobs says, and they're confident that the performance and scale of the routers will grow.

The application of interconnecting switching matrices is a "philosophical difference" between Cisco and Juniper, Jacobs says.

The Juniper rollout comes days before Cisco fetes press and analysts from around the world at its annual analyst conference next week. At the conference, Cisco is expected to introduce a half-size, 640G bit/sec version of its CRS-1 router for smaller core networks -- so Juniper's timing with the TX launch is no coincidence.

Base pricing for a TX chassis starts at US$175,000. A fully configured system can cost US$1 million, Jacobs says.

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