Juniper's QFabric, Next-Gen Data Center Architecture, Arrives

Juniper on Wednesday took the wraps off of QFabric, its long-awaited data center fabric and the culmination of its three-year-old Project Stratus.

Designed to be both a departure from and a simpler alternative to currently employed data center infrastructure, QFabric's announcement had been widely anticipated in recent weeks, and enables Juniper to step up its competition with Cisco, Brocade and other data center players.

According to Juniper, which made the unveiling at an event in San Francisco, it invested three years and more than $100 million in research and development on QFabric. The end result is that traditional three-layer data center networks will be collapsed into a single, flat layer, the company explained, where data center resources can be more cheaply and more efficiently managed, with security among virtual machines addressed as well.

Kevin Johnson, Juniper's CEO, said in a prepared statement and during Juniper's news conference that QFabric is a key piece of Juniper's cloud computing and mobile Internet focuses. Current data center architectures simply haven't kept up with the level of evolution happening, he said.

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"As cloud computing and mobile Internet accelerate, demand is intensifying for a quantum leap forward in data center capabilities," Johnson said. "With QFabric, Juniper is transforming data center economics by introducing the only network fabric that is able to eliminate multiple layers of cost and complexity."

According to Juniper, QFabric offers data center architecture that is 10 times faster, requires 77 percent less power, requires 27 percent fewer networking devices and occupies 90 percent less data center floor space. Overall, said Juniper, QFabric will offer a nine-fold reduction in operating resources required by competitive data center architectures.

QFabric, which is short for "Quantum Fabric," comprises three components. First is the QF/Node, which is the decision engine for the data center and network and will comprise switches and other devices. Second is the the QF/Interconnect, a high-speed transportation device, and the QF/Director, which manages the devices on a common window, is third.

The first available product under the QFabric banner is the QFX350 top-of-rack switch, priced at $34,000 which can operate as a stand-alone 64-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch. The Interconnect and Director products will be available starting in the third quarter, according to Juniper.

Juniper touted its partnerships with IBM, CA Technologies, NetApp and VMware -- several of whom are also tightly aligned in the data center with Cisco -- as important for QFabric's development.

"Juniper's QFabric promises to further accelerate the transformative power of virtualization in the data center by enabling even greater pooling of resources and higher efficiency," said Raghu Raghuram, senior vice president and general manager, virtualization and cloud platforms, VMware, in a statement.

Two Juniper customers, NYSE Euronext and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, have been testing QFabric already, Juniper noted.

Next: Juniper's Competitive Play Heats Up

Juniper's QFabric arrives as competition heats up among vendors all looking at how to address virtualization requirements and simplicity in the data center.

Brocade, for example, last summer introduced Brocade One, a strategy encompassing converged fabric products with a simple architecture. In the fall, Brocade trotted out a family of 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches, VDX, optimized for flatter data center deployments and based off of Brocade's Virtual Clustering Switching format.

Cisco, Juniper's principal data networking rival, has FabricPath, a virtual networking technology founded on the TRILL (Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links) standard.

John McCool, Cisco's senior vice president and general manager, data center, switching and services group, pointed to Cisco's own data center fabric successes.

"Cisco's standards-based architectural approach combining unified computing, a unified fabric, and unified network services provides a stronger foundation than fragmented point-product approaches," said McCool in a statement e-mailed to CRN. "For example, the Nexus platform supports a unified fabric and we announced last June, Nexus 7000 FabricPath, a standards-based 'flat network' solution to accelerate virtualization and cloud computing."