Cisco, Juniper Face Off

Arthur Cole

Cisco and Juniper are heading for a battle royale in 2008 as they seek to dominate enterprise data connectivity, both within the datacenter and over the wide area.


Both companies are looking to beef up their hardware and software offerings at a time when enterprises are angling for more speed and flexibility in their network infrastructures to accommodate increased traffic due to multicore systems, virtualization and other transformative technologies.


On the hardware front, Cisco and Juniper are gearing up their high-end switching lines. Cisco is looking to replace its aging Catalyst 6500 with the new DC3 switch tailored for 10 GbE operation, although word has it that the company is looking to unify Ethernet, Fibre Channel and Infiniband in a single box as well.


Juniper, meanwhile, is preparing a new series of LAN switches based on the Hurricane ASIC currently under development. This would mark Juniper's entry into the enterprise LAN space, so expectations are high that it will also provide 10 GbE connectivity at the outset, possibly expanding to 100 GbE before long.


Software is also likely to figure prominently in the coming year, particularly for Cisco, which has made no secret of its intention expand into collaboration, Web 2.0 and virtualization in its drive to establish an end-to-end enterprise communications platform. How much of that technology will be developed in-house and how much will be brought in through acquisition remains to be seen.


Juniper and Cisco are also butting heads in the lucrative carrier-class market, with both firms looking to open up their router operating systems to third-party developers. Juniper seems to be a little further along in the process, offering a development kit for its JUNOS system, although it's still getting some flak for doling it out on a per-developer basis rather than simply posting it on the Web for all to use the way Vyatta Networks does. Cisco says it's in the process of offering developers APIs for the IOS system and moving the entire code base to Unix, although there is some question as to whether the company will follow through.


If this was a heavyweight boxing match, it would be easy to tally up punches and counterpunches to see who was winning. But enterprise networking is a multi-player sport. And the more Juniper and Cisco tear each other down, the more opportunity there is for smaller firms like Force 10, Woven Systems and Extreme Networks.

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