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EMC may have no apparent plans to acquire a networking hardware company, but it's still thumbing its nose at strategic partner Cisco thanks to a new alliance with Cisco arch-rival Juniper, CRN has learned.
Juniper and EMC plan to announce this week the completion of interoperability testing between Juniper's QFabric data center system with EMC's VMAX and VNX storage arrays, and that Juniper QFabric will now be included in EMC's Support Matrix for pre-tested, multi-vendor solutions.
What that means is that solution providers can now draw on a validated reference architecture for using Juniper QFabric products with EMC storage -- an approach not unlike the designs EMC has with Cisco and other vendors under its VSPEX program. EMC and Juniper will also collaborate on partner enablement and co-marketing around how to design data center architecture using their respective products.
"This was a multiple-month effort where EMC tested QFabric with a plethora of different vendors in the hypervisor space, with different servers and operating systems," Dhritiman Dasgupta, Juniper senior director, product marketing, told CRN. "We're not asking customers to find out all the interoperability needs on their own because we can tie this together with EMC's blessing."
[Related: Juniper's QFabric: Questions and Converts]
The EMC qualification includes Juniper's QFX3500 10-GbE top-of-rack switch, and both the midmarket-focused QFX3000-M and higher-end QFX3000-G QFabric systems.
"It's something the partners can leverage in the sales cycle," said Steve Pataky, Juniper vice president, worldwide channel development. "They can show that the choices the customer has made on how they want to design the network are all going to work together."
QFabric, which Juniper launched to great fanfare in February 2011, isn't so much a single product as a set of devices and software, including the aforementioned QFX switches working in concert with data center interconnects and a device management platform.
The approach is key to Juniper's stated strategy to "flatten" the three-layer data center into something that is more cost-efficient, easier to manage and able to compete with Cisco, HP, Brocade, Enterasys and many other vendors pitching converged infrastructure designs.
But QFabric has thus far seen a slow uptake among enterprise customers since its commercial availability began a little over a year ago. Juniper claims the system has more than 200 customers, but analysts have criticized Juniper for being cagey about how many of those customers merely bought the top-of-rack QFX switches versus invested in the whole system.
Juniper insiders tell CRN that very few of Juniper's QFabric customers -- fewer than 20, according to one source with direct knowledge of the QFabric group -- are full-fledged QFabric deployments.
According to Dasgupta, however, the uptake on the switches has been strong and enough to excite customers about how to do a data center migration onto the full QFabric platform. It will simply take some time, he explained.
"It's been shipping just for a year, and the top of rack switch for 18 months," Dasgupta said. "The customers that have bought the 3500 switch we're confident will migrate to the full QFabric architecture at some point, and we also have quite a few reference-able customers for the entire fabric at this point."