Juniper Expands QFabric Portfolio To Target Midsized Data Centers

Juniper on Tuesday confirmed the new release of its QFabric data center system targeted at mid-sized data center customers -- a move that will expand QFabric's channel viability beyond the handful of partners already selling it, according to Juniper executives.

As part of a slew of data center-related releases, Juniper is also highlighting enhancements to its EX8200 modular switch lines, including quadrupled management capacity over previous versions.

QFabric, which Juniper announced in February 2011 after several years of speculation over what was previously called "Project Stratus," is the core of Juniper's strategy to "flatten" the traditional three-layer data center into something far more easily managed, with less power and equipment required, at a single tier.

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In practice, QFabric is actually a set of devices and software, starting with top-of-rack switches and including everything from interconnects to a device management platform. It's with QFabric that Juniper is competing against vendors such as Cisco, HP, Brocade, Avaya, Extreme and Enterasys, all of which are challenging for converged networking/data center supremacy using some variation on the so-called "fabric" strategy.

Juniper has been cagey about how quickly QFabric has seen customer adoption. During Juniper's first quarter earnings call in late April, the company said it had 150 QFabric customers but did not specify how many customers were purchasing QFX switches versus customers that were acquiring more of the solution set. As of late April, Juniper said there were two full-fabric QFabric deployments with customers in China and Australia.

Now comes a push to broaden QFabric's appeal. New to the Juniper lineup as of this week is the QFX3000-M QFabric system, in which Juniper has taken the benefits of its existing QFX3000-G and scaled them down for customers in more of a mid-tier price range.

Whereas the previous -G QFabric can scale to 6,144 10 GbE ports and offers performance of 5 microseconds latency per packet, the new -M QFabric version scales to 768 10 GbE ports with performance of 3 microseconds latency per packet. The -G level QFabric system is targeted at cloud providers, large enterprises, governments and high-performance computing environments, but the -M level systems are intended for mid-sized enterprise data centers and smaller, space-constrained environments such as certain colocation facilities.

Juniper claims QFabric requires 74 percent fewer cables, 57 percent less power, 29 percent fewer devices and 63 percent less physical space than competitive systems. The major difference between the -M and the -G level system that's been shipping for the last 10 months is that the -M level system both has a different interconnect device -- the XFX3600-I, which is a fixed-form-factor unit that allows customers to scale their 10 GbE ports incrementally -- and is, at 19.4 inches in depth, quite a bit smaller than the -G level QFX 3008-I interconnect.

NEXT: New QFabric Channel Opportunities

To the QFabric portfolio Juniper is also adding a new QFabric Node in the form of the QFX 3600, a top-of-rack switch that works in both the -M and the -G level QFabric systems.

"We think this opens up a great opportunity for QFabric," said Denise Shiffman, vice president of marketing, enterprise systems, Juniper Platform Systems Division, in an interview with CRN. "We're going to be focused on getting partners broad capabilities in selling, servicing and support."

Only a small number of Juniper partners -- Shiffman said fewer than 10 -- sell the -G level QFabric systems. But, Juniper has about 450 Select- or Elite-level partners qualified to sell data center wares, she said, and about 80 of those are data center specialists that sell end-to-end servers, storage and networking with Juniper. It's with those partners Juniper will work to sell the -M level QFabric systems, Shiffman explained, and Juniper also has a data center specialist group with a whole global channel support staff.

Pricing for QFabric systems depends on everything from the number of devices and licenses needed to how customers are looking to scale their data centers, with things like the transition from 10 GbE to 40 GbE throughput taken into account. Dhritiman Dasgupta, Juniper's senior director, enterprise switching and routing product marketing, said the list price usually nets out to about $1,000 per 10 GbE port, but that Juniper will offer solution providers special pricing on initial -M level QFabric deployments to push the opportunity.

In addition to the -M QFabric announcements, Juniper also confirmed new features on its EX8200 modular switches, which are targeted at mixed 1 GbE and 10 GbE environments in data center and campus core. Whereas before customers could pair up two EX8200 line switches and manage them in essence as a single switch using Juniper's Virtual Chassis technology, they can now do that with eight of the EX8200s, with the ability to mix and match the 8-slot and 16-slot versions as they choose.

The pumped-up EX8200 switches just started shipping, Dasgupta said.