Server Den: Juniper Fires Back At Cisco CRS-3 - InformationWeek

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3/11/2010
10:37 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Server Den: Juniper Fires Back At Cisco CRS-3

As the networking behemoths battle over router speed claims, both are attempting to cement public personas, and clue in non-technical consumers on who they are.

It's analogous to what Intel started doing in 1995, when Andy Grove and co. must've said to themselves: "Hey, what are we doing wasting all our time advertising to other engineers in trade magazines, when we could be on television, with a funky five-tone signature note, and an 'Intel Inside' branding campaign"?

Cisco is smartly proceeding down this same path with its Flip video ads, and the Ellen Page telepresence commercials. Interestingly, if you Google the history, Cisco's actually been doing TV branding campaigns for a decade now.

Since I have no recollection of prior stuff sticking, I submit that Cisco's household branding has really only just begun. The really interesting thing will be to see, once the Cisco name has been cemented in the public consciousness, what it is that people actually think they make. (Probably many folks think Intel makes computers, which they kinda do.)

Doubtless Cisco must've factored into its thinking the fact that explaining network switching to Ma and Pa Consumer is a non-starter, given that half of the technology press doesn't even understand what this stuff does, why it's needed, or how this stuff works. (Or what a packet is. But don't get me started.)

OK, I see I've digressed quite a bit here, mainly due to the fact that the marketing dynamics of the networking arena fascinates me. One final point, which could be a column in and of itself: Both Cisco and Juniper have been hammering lately on the point that they each make their own networking chips. During Tuesday's CRS-3 unveiling, Pankaj Patel, general manager of the Cisco's Service Provider Group, noted how important he felt it was that Cisco designed their own ASICs (semiconductors) for the switch.

I sense here a kind of internal frustration on the part of both companies that they don’t get any credit for the immense technical prowess required to design one's own silicon. So I completely understand why they're talking about this stuff, but I think few folks outside of processor mavens like myself understand the significance of this. (Hint: Intel does. See my interview with Intel CTO Justin Rattner.)

So at long last, here's Juniper's statement, attributed to Mike Marcellin, who's vice president of marketing of Juniper's Infrastructure Products Group and Junos Ready Software. (The "open" stuff he hammers on is meant to refer to Junos, which is the network operating system Juniper has opened up to developers.)

"In 2009, Juniper rolled out our vision for 'the New Network' along with truly revolutionary innovations in silicon, systems and software. We agree with Cisco that the Internet and networks themselves require fundamental change, but Juniper takes a different, open-standards approach that better benefits service provider economics and end user experiences. That’s why we’ve been delivering 100GB-capable systems since 2007.

The claim of 12 times the traffic capacity of the nearest competing system is based on a theoretical maximum of 72 interconnected CRS-3 chassis in order to achieve the 322Tbps total capacity – this will likely never be deployed in practice due to space, power, and manageability realities. With its new T-Series chipset announced in early February, Juniper will deliver a four Terabit system in a half rack configuration while the CRS-3 requires a full rack to deliver four Terabits.

In conclusion, I'm not here to parse the competing claims in a micro sense. I am here to say that both Cisco and Juniper are on the cusp of a very significant shift in how we all view networking vendors. They might've once been simply the Internet wiring guys. But as Cisco's Chambers put it Tuesday: "[We're] moving from being a plumber to how we deliver a whole new generation of business models."

(For a related take, see Bob Evans's Global CIO: Apple, IBM, & Oracle Get Turbocharged By Cisco.)

Network Computing has published an in-depth report on the state of enterprise storage. Download it here (registration required).

What's your take? Let me know, by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me directly at [email protected].

Follow me on Twitter: (@awolfe58)

Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.


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