SAN FRANCISCO, 3 MARCH 2011 - Juniper Networks (JNPR) is developing a massive switch that could replace traditional IP (Internet Protocol) routers in the core of service-provider networks and combine optical and electronic technologies that today exist in separate systems with dedicated staffs.
The PTX Series Packet Transport Switch platform, of which the first products will ship in the first quarter of next year, will combine two technologies that carriers use to bypass routing at the center of their networks. Routing involves the processor-intensive work of examining every packet, and it often isn't necessary for traffic that is just traversing the core of the network. Instead, carriers use MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) and optical switching, neither of which requires full routing intelligence, to move traffic through the core.
The company claims the PTX platform can cut network capital expenditures by between 40 percent and 65 percent compared with a traditional multiprotocol routing architecture and by 35 percent compared with an IP-only routing system.
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.
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