High-End Routers: Responding to Juniper's inroads - InformationWeek

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6/17/2004
09:35 PM
David Ewalt
David Ewalt
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High-End Routers: Responding to Juniper's inroads

Cisco Systems is the clear leader in just about every major networking market. But there's one segment in which its recent performance has been less than stellar: high-end routers. These powerful and expensive machines are bought by telephone companies and Internet service providers to power the core backbone of the Internet.

In recent years, Cisco has lacked an appropriately powerful product, and competitor Juniper Networks Inc. has gained customers among the phone companies and ISPs. Cisco still rules the market, with a 59% share compared with Juniper's 34%, but that percentage is down from 70% two years ago.

"Juniper's not a large threat in terms of dollars, but it is a threat in terms of strategic dominance," says Pacific Growth Equities analyst Erik Suppiger. Juniper has been making a name for itself by producing sophisticated IP products and is getting a lot of attention in a market where Cisco has dominated.

To stem the tide, Cisco last month unveiled the Carrier Routing System, a new high-end router that can be clustered to process a massive 92 terabits per second of traffic. Major phone companies such as Deutsche Telekom, MCI, and Sprint are looking at the hardware, but so far none has placed an order.

With a $500,000 starting price, the Carrier Routing System is probably too much machine for anyone but major telecom companies. So Cisco is working on a scaled-down version of the system that it plans to release by year's end for use by smaller providers. It also plans to adopt other parts of the technology for use in enterprise products, including the router's operating system, which allows parts of the system to reboot without shutting down the entire router.

Juniper isn't sitting still. Last week, the company launched a new line of low-end branch-office routers that directly competes with some of Cisco's best-selling lines.

The new routers, known collectively as the J-Series, include the J2300 Services Router, a fixed platform with one primary and one expansion slot that supports 8-Mbps uplink; the J4300 Services Router, a modular platform with six open slots that supports 16-Mbps uplink; and the J6300 Services Router, a modular platform with six open slots and the option for a redundant power supply that supports 90-Mbps uplink.

Cisco is expected to respond later this summer with new versions of its products, which will for the first time include hardware-enabled virtual private networking and firewalls.

Return to main story: "Cisco's Second Act"

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