Juniper's answer to Cisco in the data center: Stratus Project

Juniper's converged fabric to rely heavily on partnerships

SAN MATEO, CALIF. -- Juniper said Tuesday it is partnering with server, storage and software companies to develop a converged data center fabric under a multiyear project that will compete with Cisco's largely solo effort.

Juniper's Stratus Project is a year old and comprises six elements: a data center manager, storage, compute, Layer 4-7 switching, appliances and networking. It is intended to be a flat, non-blocking, lossless fabric supporting tens of thousands of Gigabit Ethernet ports, an order of magnitude reduction in latency, no single point of failure, and with security tightly integrated and virtualized.

Stratus is expected to support the Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) data center fabric specifications being defined and endorsed by several vendors.

Juniper isn't naming names yet as to which companies it is partnering with on the Stratus Project, but did recently outline its cloud computing plans with IBM.  

Stratus will be managed like a large JUNOS-based switch, said David Yen, Juniper executive vice president for emerging technologies, at the company's annual analyst conference here this week. (New CEO Kevin Johnson shared a grim IT spending outlook at the event.)

Stratus is designed to relieve data center scaling "pain" due to latency, power, space, cost and complexity, Yen said. It is also intended to support data center virtualization for "elasticity and efficiency," he said.

Yen would not provide details into Stratus products, configurations, pricing or availability. He indicated, though, that it will not have a material impact on Juniper's 2009 revenue.

Juniper is announcing Stratus now to allow customers to plan their long-term data center migration strategies, Yen said.

"Stratus extends Juniper's high-performance networking core competencies into the data center," Yen said. "It allows Juniper to enter a new addressable market space. We have no vested interest in prolonging suboptimal legacy architectures. We are in a unique position to revolutionize the data center."

Cisco is looking to transform data centers by developing its own blade servers that integrate networking, compute power and virtualization, and that utilize the company's networking incumbency. Cisco is believed to be partnering with VMware and BMC Software for this project, which is code-named California, but is testing its longtime relationships with data center server stalwarts IBM and HP with the project.

"With one stroke, Juniper is devaluing Cisco's incumbency," says Tom Nolle, president of consultancy CIMI Corp. "They are positioning away from current technologies [such as FibreChannel and Infiniband] that have no accommodation to the fabric as a network backplane, or as the basis for future virtualization support.

"Cisco has a lot of collisions with incumbents," Nolle adds. "Juniper cannot hope to match Cisco in breadth so it is making that an asset instead of a liability. Juniper is timing its success with Stratus to the economy's recovery and to developing symbioses with partners."

Separately, UBS analyst Niko Theodosopoulos states in a bulletin: "The product targets large scale data centers, offering an improvement of 10x versus current technologies, at least. Juniper is partnering with IBM on R&D for a total next-gen data center solution.

"We expect Stratus to be available in late 2010 or early 2011," Theodosopoulos adds. "While this is [about] two years away, the recession and standard delays for Fiber Channel over Ethernet make the plan seem reasonable in our view. We note Cisco will likely have an integrated blade server and Nexus data center offering by mid 2009 vs. the Juniper/IBM offering."

Juniper this week also unveiled a top-of-rack data center switch targeted at high-density 10 Gigabit Ethernet deployments.

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