PTX Series Packet Transport Switch starts Juniper Networks down packet-optical transport path

Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR) has taken its first steps towards offering an integrated approach to IP/optical convergence in core network applications. The company has unveiled the PTX Series Packet Transport Switch, the foundation of its newly announced Converged Supercore architecture initiative.

By Stephen Hardy -- Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR) has taken its first steps towards offering an integrated approach to IP/optical convergence in core network applications. The company has unveiled the PTX Series Packet Transport Switch, the foundation of its newly announced Converged Supercore architecture initiative.

The PTX Series initially includes two members, the 8-Tbps PTX5000 and the 16-Tbps PTX9000. Powered by the equally new Junos Express chipset designed to scale to support 2 Tbps per slot, the PTX Series will ultimately support 3,800 Tbps of traffic within an architecture that merges MPLS, switching, and integrated optics.

However, Juniper has yet to realize the “integrated optics” piece of that IP/optical convergence puzzle. In its first incarnation, the PTX Series will feature an external DWDM shelf that features ROADM technology from ADVA Optical Networking and short-haul and long-haul optics that support data rates of 10 Gbps, 40 Gbps, and 100 Gbps, reports Eve Griliches, managing partner at ACG Research. While PTX Series systems will be available for beta trials in the third quarter of this year, the ROADM and long-haul optics shelf won’t be available until next year. An OTN interface will be released in 2013, she adds.

Juniper has been investigating OTN optics for some time, including work with Menara Networks, suppliers of OTN-enabled transceivers.

“The difficulty in delivering complex optical systems is precisely where Juniper has yet to prove itself,” Griliches wrote in a note released this morning, “but we have confidence they are addressing this issue and may deliver on the entire package.”

Where Juniper doesn’t have to prove itself is in the area of packet switching and MPLS support – which may give it an advantage against more optically oriented companies if a particular customer views MPLS as more efficient than OTN in controlling the network. The PTX Series will compete initially with large-scale packet-optical switches from only a handful of vendors. These include Ciena, with the ActivFlex 5400, and Alcatel-Lucent, with the 1870 TeraSwitch.

Meanwhile, other companies with packet-optical transport platforms can be expected to scale their current metro and regional systems to compete with the PTX Series in the network core, particularly given the interest carriers such as Verizon have expressed in packet-optical transport systems for its long-haul network. Such companies may bite off more than they can chew, posits Brian Protiva, CEO at ADVA Optical Networking.

“I think a lot of people in the transport space don’t understand Layer 3 and MPLS very well. They’re struggling just to get a product that somehow competes with a product that was designed years ago by the true MPLS players,” he told Lightwave in an interview late last year. Such companies also likely will have trouble developing the ASICs and associated software necessary to support the scale core network requirements will demand, he added.

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