Juniper merges network core elements to cut carrier costs

Its PTX switches, coming next year, combine optical and packet switching

By , IDG News Service |  Networking, Juniper Networks, networking hardware

The announcement of the PTX sets Juniper on a new architectural path for the second time in just two weeks. Last Wednesday, the company unveiled QFabric, a converged enterprise network platform that creates a single logical switch throughout an entire data center. Like the new carrier-network infrastructure, QFabric is designed to eliminate multiple layers of switches and reduce the number of required devices. The overall architecture, which Juniper calls the Converged Supercore, will also include ROADMs (reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexers), management systems and other components, Juniper said.

The promise of the PTX systems also will change the role of the T4000, a traditional core router that Juniper announced last November and is not even scheduled to ship commercially until the fourth quarter of this year. A PTX switch will be able to take the place of a T4000 in the cores of networks, offering greater throughput and efficiency. In such an architecture, the T4000 would be Juniper's option for the edge of the network, where it can also carry out high-end functions such as service management along with routing.

"I was impressed that [Juniper] took the step of competing with themselves and other core router companies by building this MPLS switch," said analyst Michael Howard of Infonetics Research.

Each slot of the PTX switch chassis has double the 240G bps capacity of a T4000 slot, and its initial 480G bps slot capacity can be expanded to 2T bps. The PTX line will start out with two systems, the PTX 5020, with a total capacity of 8T bps, and the PTX 9020, with 16T bps. The architecture ultimately will be able to scale up to 32T bps, which Juniper said is 10 times the scale of competing products. Among the interface line cards available for the PTX switches will be four-port 100-Gigabit Ethernet modules, a step up from the one-port or two-port 100GE cards that other vendors are offering today.

Many carriers have been looking for pure MPLS switching for their network cores, according to Howard. In addition, large carriers maintain separate staffs of engineers for optical and electronic switching, as well as separate management systems, and they want to converge those infrastructures eventually, Howard said. The PTX switches could allow those big carriers to consolidate their staffs over time, he said. Those struggling with the most exploding traffic are looking to consolidate the technologies in two or three years, while others may take five to eight years, he said.

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