Juniper unveils QFabric, makes data center architecture push

Calling for a "fundamental rethink" about networking, Juniper launched its QFabric architecture as the company looks for a bigger piece of the data center pie.

Calling for a "fundamental rethink" about networking, Juniper launched its QFabric architecture as the company looks for a bigger piece of the data center pie.

CEO Kevin Johnson said QFabric, short for Quantum Fabric, is designed to address the exponential data center. At an event in San Francisco, Johnson said data was exploding on mobile networks and cloud computing and a new architecture is needed. Juniper has spent three years and $100 million on developing the QFabric.

QFabric is meant to address various customer pools---those that have to design for scale, speed or efficiency. Johnson argued that the network hasn't kept up with data center evolution and the days of adding new layers of switches to expand has to end. "Let's process once and transport rapidly to any," said Johnson.

In a nutshell, QFabric aims to use servers, storage, services and the network as fungible computing pools that can be partitioned without infrastructure and applications knowing details about each other. The goal is to connect resources at high speeds without limitations in the interconnect. Juniper is pitching a flat network architecture.

Among the key components of QFabric (statement, blog post, overview):

  • QF/Node serves as a decision engine for the data center and network.
  • QF/Interconnect is a high-speed transport device.
  • And QF/Director is a common window that controls all devices as one.

The first product on the QFabric front is the QFX3500, which serves as a standalone 64-port 10Gigabit Ethernet switch. The QF/Interconnect and QF/Director will be available in the third quarter.

Pradeep Sindhu, founder and CTO of Juniper Networks, wasn't shy about his vision for QFabric. He sees the QFabric effort---which started on a blank sheet three years ago---as an enabler for future computing models and a complete do-over. QFabric is designed to use 77 percent less power, require 27 percent fewer networking devices and take up 90 percent less data center floor space.

In the networking space, Juniper's launch comes at an interesting time. Cisco is trying to become more efficient to preserve margins. And HP is targeting Cisco. The battle between Cisco and HP could give Juniper a nice window to play spoiler.

IBM, NetApp, CA and VMware are initial partners. Trial customers of QFabric include NYSE Euronext and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

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