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Juniper EX series as an alternative to Cisco Catalyst?

Posted on 2011-03-19
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Cisco vs Juniper

Does anyone has any real life experience with designing and especially working (=managing)  with the Juniper EX switching series networks as an alternative to the typical Cisco core/distrubution/access layer model?

We're currently designing a completely new network at an existing +/- 2000 users university campus network in Peru and both Cisco and Juniper are still in the running. We know Cisco and we know what to expect and we know it's expensive. Juniper is able to deliver more (all Gigibit Ethernet ports) for the same price (or less) but is the technology reliable and ready for the future? What are the caveats? They say they step away from Spanning tree and go for a all L3 network. But do we really want that? Are the disadvantages of Spanning tree so big that you want to completely step away from it?

The network is very high demanding. No fancy and/or no high I/O intensive applications.

I'm not looking for an answer from Cisco veterans or die hard Cisco fans that want to give me a religious answer. I'm looking for someone that really knows both technologies in typical medium sized setups and want to tell something about the pros and cons to have a better answer for the sales people.

Also a link to a good and recent (up to date) article that talks about this would be helpful. I found a few but they were old or not relevant.

Thanks
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Question by:Stephans2
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rfc1180 earned 500 total points
ID: 35173934
Does anyone has any real life experience with designing and especially working (=managing)  with the Juniper EX switching series networks as an alternative to the typical Cisco core/distribution/access layer model?

To be honest, one does not need to have any real world experience to know what product is better than the other in the 3 layer model. What is really boils down to "what are the requirements?" I can't ask this question enough; most questions that are asked do not have any type of requirements. I have recommended Juniper over Cisco on many projects and it was never due to cost but rather to requirements. Granted cost is a major factor no doubt, but you need to know the requirements to make the final decision on whether or not cost is going to be a factor or not and what technology is going to chosen over the other.

You ask a very great question, and this is how a great networks is designed!
You can design a total network solution with all Juniper devices; however, you have to understand that the cli (JunOS) is much different than that of Cisco CLI, so there is a learning curve obviously, and this is not the end of the world, you just have to be prepared!

We know Cisco and we know what to expect and we know it's expensive. Juniper is able to deliver more (all Gigibit Ethernet ports) for the same price (or less) but is the technology reliable and ready for the future? What are the caveats?

Well, the key thing to remember is that layer 2 is layer 2 and layer 3 is layer 3, they are all the same between all the vendors in the industry. What you have to be careful with the vendor you choose in the end are the proprietary protocols for a competing technology. Most of the protocols are NOT compatible with other vendors technological protocols, such as the  Cisco`s vss (virtual switching system) technology and the Juniper`s "Virtual Chassis" feature. So depending on the requirements of the network, you will need to choose the technology that best fits the business model of the network design.

They say they step away from Spanning tree and go for a all L3 network. But do we really want that? Are the disadvantages of Spanning tree so big that you want to completely step away from it?

Layer 3 interfaces requires some type of routing protocol to be used for route/switching failures, and this would require the use of IGP protocols such as IS-IS or OSPF. Routing convergence from most IGPs are much slower than that of layer 2 protocols such as RSTP which can converge in the sub millisecond range (100-200ms); However, Juniper uses RTG as an alternative to spanning tree for redundancy and is typically much fast than RSTP or any STP for that matter. Something very comparable to RTG from a Cisco perspective is Cisco's Flex Links which are a pair of a Layer 2 interfaces (switch ports or port channels) where one interface is configured to act as a backup to the other; this feature provides an alternative solution to the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP). So here, you can see that the two protocols are very much alike. To be honest, STP is a dying protocol and will eventually be replaced with protocols such as RTG/Flex links; however, in a enterprise model, you might not see these advanced protocols implemented and STP used as a cost alternative over the other technologies. RTG/FlexLink, VSS, etc would be used in Campus, SP, Data Center networks.

As far as articles and/or links, most that I have seen will not interest you as most spill their guts that Cisco is better than Juniper and vice versa, but again, you have to compare the technologies (Bleeding edge technologies) and make the determination based on your requirements.

Another important thing to consider, is what ever vendor you choose and what ever bleeding edge technology or protocol is used in the environment, make sure they are open standards, this allows the network to scale; allows other vendors to inter-operate between other vendor equipment. Additionally, you can design a total network solution utilizing open standard protocols and have sub millisecond convergence and remember that most of the information that you read is going to be related to marketing hype. You really need to sit down and research the technologies, read RFCs, data sheets, system architectures and create a spreadsheet to compare equipment side by side. You and only you or your team will know if Juniper, Cisco, or whatever vendor is the right vendor for you.

Good Luck
Billy
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by:Stephans2
ID: 35181294
Additional question:  Currently this university's network does not even has one loop or redundant path (it's a star topology). In the future they will probably have some in the distrubution layer.

Is it true that in not too complex designs like this one RSTP is unsufficient? Are the traditional Cisco L2 networks with a 4500/6500 Core a dying thing? Would it be unwise to implement it to have a network that is ready for the next 5 years in a simple environment like this one?

Furthermore is Cisco FlexLinks a viable alternative and can it stand a comparison with Juniper's RTG? see: http://kb.juniper.net/InfoCenter/index?page=content&id=TN63&actp=RSS

Is there an important difference between an EX2200 (L2/L3 full GE switch) and a catalyst 3560/3570? I don't see any but maybe I'm wrong.
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Is it true that in not too complex designs like this one RSTP is unsufficient? Are the traditional Cisco L2 networks with a 4500/6500 Core a dying thing?

Enterprise networks not too much, but for Campus, SP and Data Center environments, yes, it will eventually be replaced with protocols such as FlexLinks and/or VSS as redundancy and fast failover is typically required.


Would it be unwise to implement it to have a network that is ready for the next 5 years in a simple environment like this one?
Depends, if fast fail-over is not an issue, you could stick with RSTP as it can failover less than 500ms
this is fast enough for TCP to recover.

Furthermore is Cisco FlexLinks a viable alternative and can it stand a comparison with Juniper's RTG? see: http://kb.juniper.net/InfoCenter/index?page=content&id=TN63&actp=RSS

Yes, they both accomplish the same task; in my opinion, they are competing technologies.


Is there an important difference between an EX2200 (L2/L3 full GE switch) and a catalyst 3560/3570? I don't see any but maybe I'm wrong.

I think the EX2200 is a direct competitor of the Cisco 2960G and the  EX3200 is the direct competitor of the 3560G; in that both the EX2200 and EX3200 are comparable with the 2960G and 3560Gs with each having some gain over one of another in certain technologies. Additionally, Juniper support is about 200 percent better than Cisco's support.

Billy
      
      

      
            
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Expert Comment

by:vdsIT
ID: 35866358
More and more businesses are switching to Juniper and SonicWALL today. Some of the reasons are cost and support. Juniper Networks' firewalls, routers and switches are well comparable to Cisco's. And their J-Care support is awesome. You can find a lot of useful information here if you are deciding what systems you are going to implement:

http://shop.vds.com/manufacturer/1-juniper-networks.aspx
http://shop.vds.com/manufacturer/109-sonicwall.aspx
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