Juniper Networks targets Cisco market with QFabric datacentre technology

By Dave Bailey
23 Feb 2011 View Comments
The interior of a datacentre

Network vendor and Cisco rival Juniper Networks is aiming to take control of the datacentre switching market with a new network technology called quantum fabric (QFabric).

QFabric is Juniper Network’s new datacentre architecture. It is designed to offer a one-to-one connection to any datacentre element to deliver 10Gbit/s data transfer rates at less than five microsecond latencies, with no packet loss or jitter.

Further reading

QFabric is the first fruit of Juniper Network's three-year Project Stratus research and development programme.

Juniper's fabric and switching group vice president Anjan Venkatramani said the programme "cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, consumed over a million man hours and led to 125 patents being filed".

The problem that Juniper Networks is aiming to solve with the Stratus technology is the tiered nature of datacentre networks.

The traditional datacentre architecture has core network switches, aggregation switches and top-of-rack (TOR) switches all layered in front of the servers delivering business applications.

This creates an environment that is hard to manage, particularly when it needs to be scaled up.

Juniper said that scaling up a traditional data centre is a case of “adding more tin”, without considering the adverse impact this has on manageability, power costs and data throughput.

The drivers for solving this problem are the increase in technologies such as cloud computing and the unquenchable demand for mobile internet services, especially data throughput, which require datacentre capacity.

Juniper’s QFabric has three components: a QF/Node which acts as the distributed decision engine of the network fabric, the QF/Interconnect high-speed transport device, and the QF/Director which delivers a common management window, controlling all devices as one.

Juniper launched the first product in the architecture today, the Juniper Networks QFX3500 – a top-of-rack system, representing the QF/Node part of Juniper’s architecture.

The QFX3500 is capable of operating as a standalone 64-port 10Git/s ethernet switch with fibre channel over ethernet (FCoE) and fibre channel gateway functionality.

The QF/Interconnect and QF/Director hardware systems will be available for order in the third quarter, Juniper said.

Quocirca’s principal communications analyst Rob Bamforth said: “Juniper's fabric approach is is a big shift, but it makes sense."

Juniper said QFabric architecture is up to ten times faster, uses 77 percent less power, requires 27 percent fewer networking devices, occupies 90 percent less datacentre floor space, and delivers a ninefold reduction in operating resources than the nearest competitive offering.

The competitive offering they cite is “is based upon product information that is publicly available for Cisco’s Nexus 7000 Series and Nexus 5000 Series platforms for a 6000 x 10 gigabit Ethernet port configuration standard industry estimate”.

It is no surprise that Juniper Networks is targeting market leader Cisco’s hold on datacentre switching infrastructure, but whether they can take Cisco's market share is another matter.

Commenting on the upcoming battle between Juniper and Cisco, Bamforth said: “This type of shift in thinking can undermine a major player, but not typically on its own, and might require the market leader to make slip-ups as well.

“Cisco is still looking pretty solid, but as other sectors have found, such as Nokia [in the mobile phone market], sometimes even apparently unassailable market leaders can stumble.”

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