Juniper's QFabric System: Questions And Converts

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With partners, analysts and other industry observers starting to question QFabric's initial momentum, Juniper is more aggressively promoting QFabric to different types of data center customers. One of its most important moves in that regard came in June, when Juniper confirmed the release of a midmarket-centric version of QFabric, scaled down for customers who aren't service providers or large enterprises, but rather midlevel enterprises with fewer data center needs.

The major difference between the -G level QFabric system, QFX3000-G, that's been shipping for the past year, and the -M system that just arrived, is that the -M system has a different interconnect device, the XFX3600-I, that's a fixed form-factor unit much smaller than the -G system's QFX3008-I.

According to Denise Shiffman, Juniper's vice president of marketing, enterprise systems, fewer than 10 Juniper partners sell the -G system QFabric. However, Juniper has roughly 450 Select- and Elite-level partners qualified to sell its data center products, and about 80 of those sell the end-to-end Juniper servers, storage and networking portfolio. Juniper's data center specialists, a group within its overall global channel support staff, are pushing QFabric sales through that group especially.

Pricing for QFabric is usually customer-specific, depending on the number of devices and software licenses needed, the number of customer sites, and how quickly customers are along the upgrade path from, say, 10 GbE to 40 GbE. List price usually lands on about $1,000 per 10 GbE port,but Juniper executives -- and several partners -- confirmed to CRN that Juniper is offering qualified solution providers special pricing to help catalyze QFabric deals.

Frank Vitagliano, Juniper senior vice president of partners, Americas, said Juniper is focused on building the opportunity deliberately -- with partners that understand data center and will build QFabric's market presence as solutions, not as line items and switch resale. In addition to proof-of-concept labs and other resources, Juniper selected 30 solution providers to which it is providing advanced sales and technical training on the QFabric opportunity.

"You have to start somewhere," Vitagliano told CRN in an interview at XChange 2012 in Dallas. "When you get into it, it's the partners that understand the data center who quickly gravitate to it and who understand what we're trying to do right away. It's easier to train those partners than it is to transition existing partners into data center or find a partner interested in data center and help them build that practice. That's really hard to do."

Also key to Juniper's QFabric expansion are two data center-centric distribution relationships: Ingram Micro, which has carried Juniper for many years as its strategic broadline partner, and Arrow, which Juniper added in October 2011 to specifically target the data center opportunity.

Arrow, in particular, will prove valuable as Juniper looks to build converged networking, storage and data center solutions around QFabric with technologies from other vendors.

"Arrow has that tremendous relationship with IBM, they're NetApp's biggest guy, so when you start looking at how to create a bundle in effect to compete against the Vblocks and that stuff, who better to do that?" Vitagliano said. "We're in that process now."

NEXT: Juniper Partners Make The Bet

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