Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Looking to continue stealing business from competitor Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks is rolling out the next phase of its IP core-router strategy.
On Friday, the company will announce the long-awaited TX Matrix, a separate switch fabric that will be used to connect up to four of its T-640 core routers. A switch fabric provides the physical connection architecture that redirects data from an incoming port to an outgoing port. Once connected, the T-640s act as a single router, increasing capacity while also simplifying management.
The introduction of the TX Matrix comes just as Juniper is gaining momentum in the core-routing market and stealing market share from Cisco. According to Infonetics Research, Juniper gained 16 percent of the market over the past year, while Cisco's market share dipped 14 percent.
The concept for the TX Matrix was first announced back in 2002 when Juniper released the T-640, the company's highest-capacity core router. Now it says the TX is ready for prime time. Two carriers, Deutsche Telekom and Korea Telecom, have already tested the new matrix in their networks.Breaking the cycle
"We've successfully tested the TX Matrix in beta test version with its full feature set and believe that the availability is well-timed to enable us to optimally scale our network as required," Wolfgang Schmitz, senior executive vice president of technology engineering at T-Com, the fixed-line division of Deutsche Telekom, said in a statement.
The TX Matrix was designed to satisfy new scaling requirements from carriers that deploy the equipment. To keep up with the growth of the Internet, carriers have traditionally been forced into a constant cycle of upgrading and replacing routers. But now carriers are demanding that the typical upgrade cycle of two to three years be extended to at least five.
Cisco's newest core router, the CRS-1, can also be configured to link multiple boxes. While the TX Matrix is able to connect up to four boxes, Cisco claims the CRS-1 can interconnect up to 72 boxes for a total capacity of 92 terabits per second.
Tom Jacobs, a senior product marketing manager at Juniper, acknowledges that 72 boxes sounds impressive, but he argues that carriers will never want to string that many large chassis together.New switch fabrics on the way
"The last thing carriers want in their central offices is more boxes," he said. "Yes, they want scalability, but they need a solution that will save them space and power. This is especially true in Asia where real estate in a point of presence or central office is very limited."
Jacobs said that Juniper's routers are designed so that the switching capacity of each individual router can be upgraded. As customers outgrow the capacity of the T-640, he said that Juniper will introduce new higher-capacity switch fabrics.
Right now, Juniper already has a significant lead in terms of product adoption. The T-series has been shipping for more than two years and has been deployed in more than 75 carrier networks. Another advantage for Juniper is the fact that the T-640 and the TX Matrix use its Junos software, a common operating system that is used across Juniper's entire product line and is considered very stable.
By contrast, Cisco has only been shipping the CRS-1 for the past few months. But it claims it already has four paying customers and more than a dozen carriers testing it. Another possible disadvantage for Cisco is its software. The CRS-1 is using a brand new operating system. Many critics say it will be at least another year before carriers feel comfortable enough to run production traffic over these routers using the new software.
Still, Cisco says it is confident about the CRS-1. The company is expected to make a series of announcements related to the CRS-1 early next week.
"Cisco is delivering on its strategy to enable carriers to build next-generation IP networks based on the CRS-1," said Jim Brady, a Cisco spokesman. "We are pleased with the traction we are seeing among our customers."
Sources inside the company say that carriers are beginning to test the CRS-1 in multichassis configurations. Deutsche Telekom, which has tested the TX Matrix, is about to enter a new phase of testing on the CRS-1 to see how well the router handles multiple chassis.