tossed its Cisco routers, switches and firewalls for Juniper gear and wound up saving enough in ongoing support costs that the project will pay for itself in eight months.

The Arizona firm, which has about 90 employees spread over three sites, made the swap during the first quarter of the year with no interruption to its online custom printing and mailing operations, says Larry Prine, its lead systems administrator.

There were some trade-offs, including that only certain models of the EX switches can be configured to act as part of a single logical switch, but the money the company saves on maintenance fees is worth it.

"Cost savings - that was the motivation," Prine says. By cutting support costs from US$48,000 (around £25,600) for Cisco to less than $6,000 per year for Juniper and selling off the two-year-old Cisco hardware, will have the Juniper gear paid off by the end of this year, he says.

Along with the cost savings comes the ability to switch WAN routers when one of the company's T-1 lines fails, something that was too complex for to get running on its Cisco routers, Prine says.

Overall, he thinks the Juniper gear is more manageable because each switch, router and firewall works on the same operating system version as the rest, so any configuration changes need to be done just once for each. With Cisco, software versions could vary within device type, he says, requiring more administrative time.

Prine swapped two Cisco Catalyst 6509 switches for four Juniper EX4200 switches. A Juniper SSG 140 security gateway and four SSG 320s replaced three Cisco ASA 5520 security appliances. Prine says Cisco didn't make any special efforts to retain's business.

Juniper EX 4200 switches can be deployed in a virtual chassis that enables managing them as a single device, but that is not a feature of the EX 3200s, he says. So the two EX 3200s in his network are managed separately. In that sense, the Cisco equipment kind of had the advantage," Prine says.