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Juniper rolls out multi-product attack on Cisco

'We're the future. They're the past'

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Juniper Networks rolled out an aggressive set of hardware, software, and services Monday morning, and while doing so it accused networking megacompetitor Cisco Systems of being yesterday's news.

At a meeting with reporters and analysts Monday morning, Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson portrayed his company as the road to the future, and Cisco as stuck in the past.

Juniper's goal, Johnson explained, is to consign the old three-layer network architecture to the historical dustbin, replacing it today with a two-layer architecture and eventually flattening it entirely into a single-layer, omnidirectional fabric combining Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand networks into a single fabric.

That effort - the Stratus Project - was uncloaked last February after being in stealth mode for over a year. Johnson didn't comment on when Stratus would hit the market, but the company has said it will appear in "the near future," and the single-tier, network fabric concept is firmly ensconced as the "1" in a new networking architecture it calls "3-2-1."

"We're at an inflection point. A transformation to what we would call the virtualized data center," Johnson told his audience. In his view of the data center landscape, the computing model has evolved, and now it's the network's turn.

"The networking model within a data center must evolve as well. It must evolve in a way that supports the virtualized data center," he said. "The legacy network approach in the data center can no longer scale to unleash the benefits of the virtualized data center. A new approach is required."

The first step in that new approach is to cut the layers down from three (access, aggregation, and core) to two (obviating aggregation). Or, as Johnson explained, to rid network architectures of the inefficiencies of network ports merely talking with other network ports rather than servers talking with servers.

Juniper began its effort to trim that third layer, said Johnson, when it introduced its EX product family in January of 2008. Now, he said, "We are the only network company now that's putting a stake in the ground to take customers to a single-tier network architecture."

While that single-tier Holy Grail is still just a promise, Johnson tossed about some figures that he claimed show the two-tier advantages over the three-tier competition - namely, Cisco.

When comparing what he claimed was a typical Cisco setup at a 500-server data center versus the same data center equipped with Juniper technology, Johnson said that the Juniper setup cost 20 per cent less due to the need for fewer managed devices and consumed 30 per cent less power.

He also compared two 4,600-server financial-services data centers. Unsurprisingly, the Juniper setup kicked Cisco's butt, in Johnson's view: latency dropped by 85 per cent even though the total cost of ownership was 38 per cent less.

In his final example of a 9,600-server data center, Johnson claimed that in a three-tier approach, 211 managed network devices were needed, but a two-tiered approach brought that number down to 41 managed devices. As a result, the two-tiered system saw a reduction in device-to-device interaction of 96 per cent, freeing up bandwidth for server-to-server communications.

Of course, these numbers are Juniper's claims and not results obtained by independent third-party benchmarkers - but even if they're anywhere near close to the truth, they're impressive.

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