A short history of Cisco vs Juniper

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Juniper and Cisco have been playing "can you top this" in Internet router technology for a decade. Cisco just announced its "forever change the Internet" CRS-3 back in February. Now it's Juniper's turn with the T4000...

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Back in the day, Cisco ruled enterprise and service provider routing with its high-end 7500 series system. The 2Gbps 7500 debuted in 1995 and, though its roots and initial target was the corporate enterprise, it was also offered to and deployed by Internet service providers.

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For two years, the Cisco 7500 was about the only routing game in town for ISPs until Cisco introduced the 5-60G 12000 series GSR. Unlike the 7500, the 12000 GSR, anticipated for years under the code-name "BFR", was optimised for the Internet and designed to help it scale in bandwidth and performance and support advanced queuing and packet handling services.

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Then in 1998, an alternative to Cisco for Internet routing emerged. Start-up Juniper, founded in 1996, shipped its first product: the M40 router. The M40 was a wire-speed, 40G routers with ASICs designed specifically for Internet backbone routing, packet processing and traffic engineering.

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Not one to stand idly as it's passed by, Cisco over the years raised the switching capacity of the 12000 GSR to 160G and in 1999 unveiled a 16-slot chassis that the company said could be clustered into a 5Tbps system. It then rolled out another significant upgrade in 2001 undefined a 320G switch fabric and 10G OC-192 and quad-port OC-48 interfaces for the router that transformed it into the 12416 GSR.

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Juniper one ups the 12416 in 2002 with the T640, a 640G/40G per slot core router that, too, can be clustered into a multiterabit system. But that won't come for another two years, with the introduction of the TX Matrix router interconnect system, which connects four T640s at 2.5Tbps

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Cisco also rolled out a significant core upgrade in 2004 with the CRS-1 router. The CRS-1, code-named "HFR" and also anticipated for years, supports over a terabit of bandwidth in a single system and 92Tbps when 72 are clustered together with an optical interconnect, Cisco claims. The CRS-1 is joined by a new operating system undefined IOS-XR undefined and 40Gbps ASICs, and is viewed as a key system for Cisco to regain market share lost to the Juniper T640.

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Three years after the introduction of Cisco's CRS-1 and Juniper's TX Matrix, Juniper leapfrogs Cisco again with the T1600 core router. The T1600 supports 1.6Tbps per half-rack system, or 3.2Tbps per rack, 2Tbps better than a CRS-1. It also supports 100Gbps per slot, readying the system and Internet core routing for 100Gbps interfaces, which won't come for another three years.

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Juniper piles on in 2009 with the introduction of the TX Matrix Plus, an interconnect for the T1600 router that Juniper says can connect 16 of the routers into a 25Tbps system. It can also work with the company's Juniper Control System (JCS) 1200 to allow the virtualisation of routing systems, networks and services, Juniper says.

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Cisco cranks up the hype machine in 2010 with the introduction of the CRS-3, which it claims will "forever change the Internet." CRS-3 features three times the capacity of the CRS-1, can be clustered into a 322Tbps system, Cisco claims, and ushers in 100Gbps slot capacity and interfaces from Cisco. At 322Tbps, it is 12 times the capacity of a T1600/TX Matrix Plus cluster. CEO John Chambers says the CRS-3 is not just a router but "the future of the Internet."

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Which brings us to today: Juniper is attempting to leapfrog Cisco again with the T4000, which supports 240Gbps per slot and 4Tbps in a half-rack, 8Tbps in a full rack, roughly double that of the CRS-3. It ups the 100G ante by supporting 16 line-rate 100G Ethernet ports per system, and at some point will be able to be clustered together through an upgraded TX Matrix Plus to perhaps achieve at least 16Tbps. The T4000 allows Juniper to claim a per system/per rack capacity advantage over Cisco undefined but the cluster claims still belong to Cisco.

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