Technology

Juniper Supersizes Ethernet at the Edge

10/20/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

Juniper Networks, betting that size does matter, has cooked up a massive Ethernet router designed for service providers that analysts said would easily provide the highest capacity among products in its class.

The MX960 Ethernet Service Router will provide an industry-leading 960 Gigabits per second of aggregate capacity and be able to handle a mix of voice, video and data traffic over as many as 480 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

TECH SPEC: Ethernet at the Edge
How three vendors’ carrier-class Ethernet router platforms stack up.
JUNIPER CISCO ALCATEL
Product MX960 7609 7750
Aggregate throughout claimed 960 Gbps 720 Gbps 400 Gbps
Max. Gigabit Ethernet ports 480 386 400
Chassis height, in rack units 15 21 14
SOURCE: Multichannel News research

John Treece, Juniper’s director of cable business-development and marketing, said the MX960 can sit either at the edge of a cable system’s network — to aggregate video and data streams to subscribers — or in the core of a network.

“This can meet scalability needs from hubs that support 10,000 homes up to very high capacity” of more than 100,000 homes depending on network-usage profiles, he said.

While nearly 1,000 Gbps of capacity might seem excessive for an “edge” device today, Treece noted that CableLabs’ forthcoming Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 3.0 allows for up to 100 Megabits per second of data to the home. “Ten years ago, people said, 'All we’ll ever need for data is 128 kilobits per second symmetrical,’ ” Treece said.

The MX960’s closest competitors are Alcatel’s 7750 Service Router, which offers capacity of up to 400 Gbps, and Cisco Systems’ 7609, which Cisco claims supports 720 Gbps of switching capacity.

Juniper has trailed both Alcatel and Cisco in the market for high-density Ethernet aggregation switches, said Glen Hunt, principal analyst for carrier infrastructure at Current Analysis. But with the MX960, he said, the vendor has jumped into the fray with a very competitive offering.

“In typical Juniper fashion, they come out said say, 'OK — I’m here, and I’m the biggest and baddest,’ ” Hunt said.

Later this month, Juniper expects to ship beta versions of the system to “a handful” of cable operators that will test it out, Treece said, though he wouldn’t name multiple-system operators participating in the program. The final version of the MX960 is set to be available in the first quarter of 2007.

Pricing for the MX960 will start at around $100,000; a fully stocked switch will run about $500,000, Treece said.

Besides massive capacity, analysts said, one of the MX960’s distinguishing features is its ability to scale along three different dimensions: large numbers of subscribers, high bandwidth and multiple services (such as video, voice and data, as well as quality of service and security-related services like encryption). “When you provide QoS on voice, video and data you really stress the processing on a router,” said Eve Griliches, research manager at IDC. With the MX960, “it doesn’t really matter when things move on that triangle — as bandwidth, subscribers or services increase, it can handle the load.”

The MX960 incorporates an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) developed by Juniper called the I-chip, which provides high-speed packet processing. That architecture, according to Juniper, will efficiently handle millions of individual Internet Protocol flows.

The Ethernet router could help Juniper’s penetration into the cable market, which has historically been low, Griliches said. One reason for that is Juniper lacks cable-specific networking gear. In November 2005, the company announced plans to collaborate with Motorola to produce a modular cable-modem termination system (CMTS). Modular CMTS is an ongoing initiative by CableLabs to distribute CMTS functions across separate hardware and software elements.

Treece said the MX960 will be “extensible” to be able to support Modular CMTS and other future enhancements.

September