University of Manitoba installs Juniper switches

The University of Manitoba is replacing networking equipment from Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) with EX4200 switches made by Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE:JNPR)

The Winnipeg school has about 80 buildings at its Fort Garry Campus plus several other locations, including the Bannatyne campus downtown. For the past 20 years, its network infrastructure has been based on Cisco technology, said Doug Dennis, University of Manitoba’s wide-area network manager.

But as the demand for video increased and backups took up more network capacity, university officials decided it was time to upgrade the network so it could transfer traffic at 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps).

“Right now we have dual gig links from desktop switches to building routers,” Dennis said. “Later in the year we are increasing the core network to 10 Gig.”

The project will involve the purchase of 15 to 20 Juniper EX4200 switches, he said. The purchase was made as a result of a request for proposals. Bidders included San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, plus Foundry Networks Inc., Nortel Networks Corp., 3Com Corp. and Hewlett Packard Development Co. Ltd. (NYSE:HPQ)

Four of those vendors have either agreed to or completed mergers.

Avaya Inc. acquired Nortel’s enterprise unit, which includes switches and routers. Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP, whose Procurve division makes switches, agreed last year to acquire 3Com. In 2008, Foundry was acquired by Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:BRCD).

Dennis said the University of Manitoba switch contract was awarded to Juniper due to both prices and features. Though the university is not revealing the cost of the contract, Dennis said the Juniper switches cost much less than Cisco Catalyst 3750-E switches.

He added the operating system, JunOS, was also a key feature because he wanted the university’s networking equipment to have one operating system that administrators could read.

 “While this isn’t Cisco, it is very readable,” he said of JunOS. “Anybody with a Unix or programming background will find this a treat.”

Another reason the University of Manitoba chose Juniper was the technology was originally designed for carriers, which was originally Juniper’s target market.

Juniper is the No. 2 vendor in the carrier Ethernet market, according to Campbell, Calif.-based Infonetics Research Inc., which frequently publishes market share studies on different telecom and networking equipment. The enterprise switch market, dominated by Cisco, was US$3.5 billion during the third quarter of 2009, Infonetics stated, with sales of 10 Gbps ports. Infonetics found switch shipments were up 61 per cent over the previous year.

The EX4200 has virtual chassis technology, which lets users connect up to 10 of the switches together and get one logical system.

“We have limited staff resources and the way IP addresses have been allocated on campus, we have a shortage of addresses,” Dennis said.

John Dathan, general manager for Juniper Canada’s enterprise division, said the University of Manitoba inked two separate contracts for Juniper equipment. The other contract was for the Juniper SRX 3600 firewall, released last year.

Dennis said the firewall is capable of handing traffic from both the research networks and from the public Internet.

“It’s not like a typical corporation,” Dennis said. “We can’t lock down everything and just open up a few ports. Generally, everything is open with just a few ports locked down.”

The SRX 3600, launched nearly a year ago, has 12 slots and includes an intrusion prevention system. The firewall capacity is 30 Gbps while the IPS can handle 10 Gbps. It also has a virtual private network (VPN), with 10 Gbps throughput.

Juniper expanded its SRX network security hardware line last year with the launch of four multi-function gateways.