Juniper unveils new fabric switch, architecture

QFX5100 ushers in QFabric alternative; MetaFabric combines Juniper switches, routers, SDN into fabric WAN

Juniper Networks this week unveiled a new top-of-rack data center access switch, as well as a new fabric architecture that features that switch along with the company's MX edge router and SRX security platforms.

A key element of the QFX5100, which was expected, is its in-service software upgradeability. Juniper says the high availability features of the Junos 13.2 release it runs improves application uptime for data centers.

And in addition to Juniper’s Virtual Chassis and QFabric architectures, the QFX5100 can also be configured into a new Juniper architecture called Virtual Chassis Fabric, leaf-and-spine and Layer 3-based designs. VCF is a 1G/10G/40G optimized fabric that scales to 768 10G ports by combining Juniper QFX5100, QFX3500, QFX3600 and 1G EX4300 switches into a single-tier, single logical switch.

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The QFX5100 also supports network overlays including VXLAN and eventually NVGRE, as well as SDN controllers, such as Juniper Contrail and VMware NSX. The Junos image it runs features Zero-Touch Provisioning, and APIs for integration with third-party orchestration systems, such as Python, OpenStack, Puppet and Chef.

The QFX5100 is aimed squarely at Cisco’s 40G Nexus 6000 line.

Even though Juniper began shipping its QFabric technique two years ago, market uptake has been underwhelming. Juniper misread the market with the initial release of QFabric which, at 6,000 10G servers, overshot demand.

As a result, while customers have embraced Juniper's QFX top-of-rack switches, they have not been keen on the entire QFabric Node/Director/Interconnect architecture. That, plus the divergent needs of Juniper's diverse customer base is driving the company, and others like Cisco, to introduce alternatives like VCF and leaf-and-spine.

Cisco's Insieme project is expected to produce a leaf-and-spine architecture with virtually no genealogy with the company's five-year-old Fabricpath.

"It's safe to stay that Juniper is not seeing a uniform set of customer requirements from its customers," says analyst Brad Casemore of IDC. "This is why we're seeing a proliferation of architectural alternatives from the established vendors of network infrastructure. The advantage of offering choice is that it provides alternatives to customers, but the disadvantage is that vendors must take care to ensure that customers aren't confused by a muddled message."

The other new fabric Juniper introduced this week is MetaFabric, which combines its QFX and EX switches, MX routers, SRX security systems and Contrail SDN controller into an intra- and inter-data center network. MetaFabric is intended to enable rapid application provisioning within and across multiple data centers using existing Juniper equipment already installed in customer sites and with gear from Juniper partners.

It’s also designed to allow customers to pool network resources across data centers, Juniper says, so that these resources are more readily available for applications.

In addition to the QFX5100, Juniper also rolled out enhancements to other MetaFabric products in order to aid in implementation of the fabric. On the MX routers, Juniper added support for Ethernet VPN for tunneling Ethernet traffic across the WAN between data centers.

Juniper also added support for VMware’s ESXi hypervisor to its Contrail SDN controller so that the widely installed service virtualization platform can be a participant in MetaFabric. MetaFabric also supports VMware’s NSX network virtualization controller, and OpenStack and Cloudstack cloud orchestration platforms.

Juniper has a MetaFabric Reference Architecture to demonstrate interoperability in a VMware virtualized data center, along with EMC storage and IBM compute systems running Microsoft applications. Juniper also has professional services to assist customers in implementing a MetaFabric.

The QFX5100-48S, with 48 x 10G capacity, is priced at $30,000. The QFX5100-24Q, with 32 x 40G capacity, is priced at $40,000. The 48S will be available in late November and the 24Q will be available in January.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 27 years, 22 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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