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January 20, 2015updated 22 Sep 2016 11:43am

Juniper targets Brocade and Cisco in SDN war

Brocade’s virtual routers are “very basic”, while Cisco’s provide less scale and performance.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

Juniper Networks has criticised rival firms Cisco and Brocade in the software defined networking (SDN) space, claiming their virtualised routers lack breadth, scale and performance.

Mike Marcellin, SVP of president of strategy and marketing at Juniper, told CBR Brocade’s virtual routers are "very basic", while Cisco’s provide less scale and performance than Juniper’s.

The claims come after Juniper released a virtualised version of its MX Series 3D edge router in November 2014, which operates as software on x86 servers.

"Brocade is fairly new to the router game and so the level of features and capabilities that they have are very basic," Marcellin said.

"If you think about how service providers use routers today, they serve business customers and business customers need the ability to offer VPN services and security services, which are not built into the Brocade solution."

He said: "For example, if information comes through the router and if all I need to decide is what is the next place I need to send that information, that’s the most basic part. If instead, I have to figure out what’s in this packet; is it video traffic? Do I need to run it through a firewall to make sure that it’s not bad traffic?

"That’s many more things that I have to think about, so can I still do 100 per second, and that’s the question. So with Brocade, they don’t even have all of those functions. They can’t even do all the other things and if they could it would bog them down."

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Brocade, which acquired Foundry Networks for $3bn in 2008, released its Vyatta 5600 vRouter, in 2014. The virtualised router is said to have hit 80Gbps throughput on an off-the-shelf Intel based x86 server during tests with Telefonica.

When asked about Juniper’s claims, Brocade’s CTO Kelly Herrell, said: "There were some blatant misrepresentations that were made and I don’t understand why they were made…We’ve had a firewall in our virtual router since 2008.

"There are massive use cases that use Brocade’s virtual router just for the firewall. It’s far in a way the most operationally deployed virtual router in the planet."

Glen Hunt, Principal Analyst, Transport and Routing Infrastructure at Current Analysis, told CBR: "Brocade has been data centre focused for the last five years. Everything they’ve been doing is related to the data centre and so they’re not going to have the same level of WAN expertise even though they acquired Foundry.

"Juniper also has a fair amount of data centre experience and launched fairly significantly innovations in the data centre a few years back, so they understand the data centre world, and have a lot of data centre expertise that would be in the Brocade solution, so they bring that together with the WAN solution."

Peter Christy, research director of networking at 451 Research, also told CBR: "Vyatta has been useful to network operators because they can insert the Vyatta Virtual Router into their network, but not for the purposes of packet forwarding but rather to offload some of the computational load.

"If a router’s capacity is reached in terms of packet forwarding you have to add another expensive router. If a router’s capacity is reached because of computational tasks then adding another virtual router is much cheaper and that’s a really good deal whether or not the Vyatta virtual router has all the functions of a Juniper router (not the issue because it only has to do specific tasks).

Meanwhile, Cisco’s SDN portfolio includes the CSR 1000V router, which is designed to give network managers the flexibility to enforce policy, connect or provide high availability using familiar Cisco tools and technologies.

Juniper’s Marcellin said: "We’ve a much more comprehensive feature set [than Cisco’s] but then we also have the level of scale. This means that the amount of traffic that the virtual router can process, ours is higher than anything we’ve seen from Cisco. We’ve tested them in a lab. I don’t know what they claim but in actual real testing we significantly outperform them in how much traffic we can pass through."

Cisco declined to comment on Juniper’s claims, but did outline why its portfolio reduces the overall buden of costs for customers.

"Most of the vendors in the market space for SDN and NFV are centred around their specific domains, focusing on either customer premise, wide area network or the data centre," said Cisco’s Service Provider Networking director Sanjeev Mervana.

"Whilst such an approach provides a domain based solution which may help reduce operational expenditure in one domain, it does however restrict the end customer in their choice, and increase the overall burden of cost on the customer."

He said: "Cisco’s approach is based on solutions and architecture which span multiple domains. Crucially, we do not aim to only be competitive on the specific domain based solution around agility, performance and scale for the controller or individual virtual function; we operate on a solution based approach. This cross domain orchestration helps us solve the ultimate business outcome for customers in an open and multi-vendor environment, and not simply a domain specific issue managed by one vendor."

Current Analysis’s Hunt added: "I think Juniper is coming at it from a very different perspective than Cisco. Cisco obviously wants to maintain their customer base, provide the really leading enterprise application, retain that enterprise customer base and so forth but they realise that they have to offer a more nimble and agile infrastructure to do that. Whereas Juniper is trying position itself as the high performance platform vendor with a great and expensive partnering system."

He added: "Cisco has all the technology around the platform. They have the data center solutions, they have the cloud solutions, they have the enterprise solutions, so they’re looking at it from a much more holistic perspective and whether or not they have a carrier grade router of X capacity with these features today that they’re talking about is maybe a short-term thing… but they certainly have all that technology and capability to make it happen when they need to."

451 Research’s Christy added: "So Juniper’s claims are probably right, but that doesn’t directly impact the utility or competitive strength of a Cisco virtual router or Brocade Vyatta virtual router.

"The unanswered question is whether there are additional valuable applications that can be done on the Juniper router and not on Cisco or Vyatta which is to be determined. Might well be true, but that’s different than saying that they can do what a Cisco or Brocade virtual router is capable of doing better in a meaningful sense."

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