Juniper Stratus Debuts as QFabric

New networking fabric debuts after three years and $100 million investment. Will it transform data centers?

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Feb 23, 2011
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For the last three years, Juniper has said it was working on Project Stratus, a new data center fabric for cloud computing designed to reduce network layers and complexity. Today, Juniper took the wraps off Stratus, which will be productized as "QFabric." The QFabric effort involved $100 million of investment and resulted in over 125 filed patents.

Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson explained during a QFabric launch event that in traditional network architectures, each layer of a network requires some processing before a packet is transported. The QFabric approach is different.

"We process once and we transport to any," Johnson said. "By doing that what we're able to provide are significant benefits in the areas of scalability, speed and performance."

Pradeep Sindhu, founder and CTO of Juniper noted that QFabric involves silicon, systems and software in order to collapse network layers. From a network topology perspective, Sindhu noted that QFabric enables a network to look like a single flat switch that can then be more easily managed and provisioned.

"QFabric looks like a single large flat logical switch and a single switch that has industry standard interfaces," Sindhu said. "What the single large switch enables is full resource pooling as well as partitioning of resources for organizational purposes.

David Yen, an executive vice president at Juniper, explained that QFabric enables an any-to-any non-blocking architecture that has a one hop capability from any resource to any other resource on the network. Yen noted that with QFabric, cross data center latency can be as low as 3.71 microseconds. He added that, since QFabric is essentially a single switch, it can be managed as such, requiring less overall administration.

QFabric is a competitive approach to other efforts to help flatten network architectures. Earlier this week, Avaya threw its hat in the ring with the 802.1aq Shortest Patch Bridging standard. Rival networking vendor Cisco has been supporting the TRILL (Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links)standard as part of its FabricPath technology.

Yen noted that QFabric does not use Shortest Path Bridging or TRILL. Yen said those technologies add complexity.

"Cisco's standards-based architectural approach combining unified computing, a unified fabric, and unified network services provides a stronger foundation than fragmented point-product approaches," said John McCool, senior vice president and GM, data center, switching and services group at Cisco said in a statement emailed to InternetNews.com.

The QFabric solution involves three core components. The QFabric node is the outer layer and it contains the logic to forward packets from one node to another. Nodes also form the distributed control plane for QFabric. The QFabric Interconnect is the mechanism which allows packets to flow from the ingress to the egress point on the switch. Finally there is the Director component which is what enables QFabric to be viewed and managed as a single switch.

"QFabric allows all the compute and storage resources in the data center to be tied together into a single system," Yen said.

The first QFabric product that Juniper is shipping is the QFX35000, a 64 port 10 GbE switch that also has Fiber Channel capabilities. Yen said the QFX will ship in the third quarter of 2011.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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