Juniper has announced its own switch line, the EX series, offering the services and features IT has come to expect from a switch -- 10/100/Gb Ethernet, fiber, and PoE. The switches will run JunOS, Junipers routing, and now switching, which provide a common command set to both of its switch and router lines. The EX 3200, starting at $4,000, is a 1U fixed-configuration switch; the EX 4200, starting at $6,000, is a 1U stackable modular chassis (the pricing is in line with the industry). The EX 8200, a 21U chassis, will be available in Q2 2008. Pricing for the EX8022 was not available.
The full-featured routers also offer layer 3 routing " Juniper's stock in trade -- with support for common routing protocols like Rip, OSPF, and BGP. Juniper's very late entry, combined with its experience in building reliable routers for service providers, may be a benefit. While some companies will buy Cisco based on name alone, the San Jose, Calif., giant's switch line has usually been the one to beat in terms of reliability and feature sets. Juniper has made its name in the service provider market where uptime is critical to success and downtime directly affects the bottom line.
Nevertheless, Juniper has a tough road ahead in the switch market. Cisco still dominates -- garnering well over 50% of the market by port and unit shipments. Meanwhile, according to market research firm the Dell'Oro Group, more than 20 switch vendors are competing for position. In Q3 of 2007, Cisco made up 72% of the market by revenue, with HP ProCurve (4%), Nortel (4%), and 3Com (4%) and the remainder scrapping for the rest. Juniper's new switch line could easily become just one more in an already commoditized market.
The EX series' security features include support for 802.1X, DHCP and ARP snooping, and access control lists. Many of the features have been available in other switches from numerous vendors (Cisco, Extreme, and HP) for quite a while and have just started to be used in networks. The ability to enforce security on the port means network attacks can be stopped closer to the source rather than in the core.
The products will integrate with Juniper's Unified Access Control product line, which provides network access control. With support for multiple 802.1X supplicants per port, the ability to integrate with any network scenario is compelling. For example, layer 2 through 4 ACLs let you control network access in a way that is most effective. Juniper's Infranet controller -- its NAC policy engine -- can set ACL for security and QoS based on users and host conditions. The security functions can be managed through the Netscreen Security Manager, Juniper's management console for its firewall line.
The Virtual Chassis
What is a product launch without virtualization figuring in prominently? The EX 4200 virtual chassis technology allows up to 10 EX 4200 to be interconnected through a custom cable creating a virtual stack. The virtual backplane offers 128Gb/s interconnectivity and interconnected switch becomes a virtual blade in the stack. The stack is designated in the same way the chassis, slot, and ports are designated in their routers. In addition, any EX 4200 can serve as a layer 3 routing engine and in the event of failure, and any other EX 4200 in the stack can take over, offing seamless routing. While stacking is a common feature today, the restriction to just one switch line hampers deployment. Extreme Networks' edge switching line, for example, can be stacked together, letting you take advantage of already-deployed switches.
Juniper certainly has a good name in routing and security. The question as yet unanswered is whether Juniper can succeed in this flooded switch market.