New Juniper core switch a departure

Juniper Networks has released a new core data centre switch with new capabilities, but it could also give a headache to organizations that have spent money on the company’s previous core switch.

The EX9200 series of Ethernet switches are more programmable than anything else from the company, says Robert Grasby, senior manager for Juniper’s campus and data centre business group, making it ideal for those looking at software-defined networking. However, they are not based on Juniper’s top of line EX8200 switches.

The EX8200 uses merchant silicon and is designed to take advantage of Juniper’s QFabric technology for a single-tier network. The new EX9200 series uses Juniper’s own programmable ASIC chip and is based on the MX series of routing switches that can’t be linked to an EX8200 in a single-tier architecture.

“When we looked at how the world was changing – the advent of SDN (software defined networking), the adoption of cloud and the penetration of mobile devices in the enterprise – it became clear the pace of rapid change,” Grasby explained Thursday when the new switch was announced. “While we envisioned the 8200 providing these capabilities in the future, the future kept moving faster.”

“It was an agonizing decision” not to base the next core switch on the EX series, he added. Ten years from now, most Juniper customers will be on a single-tier network, he said. But for now there are organizations that need a different set of capabilities.

The decision is understandable, says Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. The EX8200 is several years old and, because it uses merchant silicon, could only offer 40 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. Meanwhile, competitors have switches with 100 GbE on their roadmaps. The EX9200 offers 1/10/40 GbE, with a 100 GbE line card promised by the end of the year.

However, Kerravala added, the price of the EX9200 is a forklift upgrade for data centres with the EX8200.

It isn’t easy for a manufacturer to carry multiple product lines, he pointed out, arguing that Cisco Systems Inc. struggled with the Catalyst and the next-generation Nexus line of switches. That ended when it upgraded the Catalyst to handle 100 GbE so it could link to Nexus.

Juniper unveils SDN strategy

On paper, Juniper’s move makes sense, Kerravala said. The QFabric system is for customers who want low latency, the EX9200 is for those who want programmability.

“While I think this (the EX9200) is the right move for Juniper, their success or failure is going to be how successful they manage customer transition,”  Kerrvala said, including training system integrator partners to explain the merits of each.

The EX9200 — which starts at US$80,000 and can also be used in campuses — comes in models with four, eight and 14 slot chassis. The backplane of the biggest, the 9216, can handle up to 13.2 Terabits per second. Using Juniper virtual chassis technology, two 9200s can be linked and managed as one.

The programmability of the EX9200  will allow network administrators to automate processes, said Grasby. In addition, support for existing or future network protocols such can be added through software.

The switch now supports VXLAN, SDN protocols like OpenFlow, Python, Puppet, and orchestration software from VMware and OpenStack.

Also on Thursday, Juniper announced the Junos Wireless LAN Controller, a virtual appliance which merges wired and wireless controllers in one. It will be released shortly. No pricing was announced.

The company also announced an upcoming change to its Junos Space network management platform. Network Director will consolidate a number of Juniper applications for network elements like switches that Space manages to give more visibility across the network. Juniper says Network Director also tracks aggregated utilization, network hotspots, failures, correlated RF data and usage to a user level. The first application it will replace is Ethernet Design. It will be released in the third quarter.

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