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QFabric speculation is ramping up, while in the meantime, Juniper itself is undergoing significant internal changes. In the last few week, Juniper confirmed exits of four EVP-level executives as part of an ongoing restructuring meant to remove $150 million in operating expenses. Those transitions include the impending departures of Stefan Dyckerhoff, EVP, Platform Systems Division and R.K. Anand, EVP and GM of Juniper's data center business, both of whom were key QFabric proponents in Juniper's management ranks.
A Juniper source told CRN the EMC reference architecture was set to be announced earlier in October. But, the announcement was delayed, that source said, because of negative press surrounding Juniper's layoffs and also the much-discussed, then thoroughly-debunked rumor that EMC was potentially going to acquire Juniper.
Such a move, which most analysts quickly dismissed as far-fetched, would put EMC squarely at odds with Cisco, with which it partners in the joint data center venture VCE as well as on several other fronts. But, Cisco's relationship with EMC and EMC-majority-owned-VMware is thought to have been strained following several recent moves made by each vendor, particularly VMware's acquisition of virtualized networking startup Nicira this past summer.
During EMC's third-quarter earnings call last week, however, EMC CEO Joe Tucci denied that EMC would acquire a networking hardware company, saying its Cisco relationship was on solid ground.
"Some have called into question the viability of our relationship with Cisco in VCE because of VMware's entrance into the networking space," Tucci said in prepared remarks. "The reality is that software-defined networking complements the network infrastructure, and EMC has no plans to drive deeper into networking by acquiring a networking hardware company. We believe continued innovation in the network infrastructure by a partner ecosystem will enable higher performance transmission of data in the next-generation data centers. In short, we are committed to work closely and cooperatively with Cisco, our premier partner."
In an early October interview with CRN, Cisco CEO John Chambers also affirmed Cisco's relationships with EMC and VMware but also said Cisco isn't afraid of a co-opetition model.
"When we partner ... well, I'm not looking at my wife and saying I'm going to partner with you till I find somebody cuter. That wouldn't work. That's how we approach partnerships," Chambers said. "We are far from perfect, but we do not say we're going to partner and then move on our partners. Almost every major vendor in the [industry] wants to partner with Cisco right now. The network is at the sweet spot of every major market transition going on. It's all about the network. Will EMC be a very good partnership for us? Maybe our best? Yes. Will we compete against VMware as it relates to networking? Absolutely. And when we compete, we don't lose."
Solution providers see little ambiguity in EMC's move with Juniper, however: it's a way to keep a check on Cisco in much the same way Cisco has kept a check on EMC through its extensive partnerships with other storage providers like NetApp and Hitachi Data Systems.
"Cisco and EMC have become the best of frenemies," said a top executive at a national solution provider who partners with Cisco, EMC and Juniper, who said he would look at the EMC-QFabric architecture. "They do like each other and need each other but everything has to become a check-and-balance type of move. No question this is EMC hedging against Cisco's relationship with NetApp by bringing in another Cisco enemy."
Meanwhile, Juniper partners continue to evangelize QFabric. IGX, for example, worked closely with Juniper since QFabric's pre-launch days, when it was under development as Project Stratus. Juniper's been active with IGX and other partners helping to get the solutions a good look -- including assistance with proof-of-concepts (POC), IGX Global's Jansson said -- even if some customers continue to hesitate.
"Some customers are concerned about [putting] all [their] eggs in one basket," he said. "There's a mentality change in a single switch, but that's a mentality change IGX is willing to help them deal with. Customers who have already deployed a virtual chassis technology, either by Juniper's EX4200 or EX8200, are much more open to a strategy like this."
EMC's participation definitely helps the QFabric pitch to enterprise customers, Jansson said.
"Having someone of that caliber take an interest in QFabric and being able to say that they can support an implementation between EMC and QFabric, that's very lucrative from our point of view," he said. "Some of our larger customers do have EMC in their data centers, and that EMC recognizes QFabric as a viable partner in a storage deployment should be good."