That the EX9200 is based on the MX router -- not the current EX platform -- and uses custom silicon before QFabric is indicative of the challenges Juniper is facing in enterprise and data center switching. The EX8200 has not had a major line card or switch fabric refresh since it was announced in 2008. And QFabric is based on merchant silicon -- Broadcom's Trident chipset -- after custom silicon reportedly failed to work and Juniper was pressed to get a much-hyped, much-anticipated product to market.
Around the same time, RK Anand, one of Juniper's early engineers and head of its data center switching group, departed, along with three other executive vice president-level officials. The data center switching group was also combined with the campus and branch business unit under Jonathan Davidson, whose background is largely in service provider routing.
The EX9200 also raises questions on the status and future of the EX8200 core campus switch, the QFabric Interconnect data center fabric switch and even the EX6200 "Simply Connected" core switch. Juniper has not disclosed or even hinted at any meaningful upgrade plans for the EX8200, such as 40/100G Ethernet or any next-generation switch fabric cards to support high density, high speed interfaces.
Juniper is also cagey on whether there will be a next-generation QFabric and if it will incorporate custom ASICs instead of merchant silicon. That QFabric sales have been slow -- and now that the EX9200 is imminent -- might be a signal that Juniper plans to go in another direction in fabric switching, specifically in the core, or spine.
Sources have said that QFabric has essentially been placed in maintenance mode: that significant development has ceased and only incremental features and fixes are currently planned, such as the possibility of fabric extenders. They also said that Juniper determined QFabric to be too complex and cost too much to build added features onto.
Some sources labeled the EX9200 as a "gap filler," or "MX paint job" until Juniper sorts out its campus and data center switching strategy. Juniper declined to comment on these issues.
Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.
Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.