Juniper Networks Debuts MetaFabric and Updates Switches

Back in 2011, after $100 million of investment, Juniper Networks debuted its QFabric solution to scale networks. Now in 2013, Juniper is rolling out Metafabric, a superset of multiple existing Juniper fabrics, to help simplify networking topology.

Dhritiman Dasgupta, senior director of the Platform Solutions Division at Juniper, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that Metafabric is a fabric that can span multiple datacenters. A “fabric of fabrics,” it also encompasses the QFabric approach.

In addition to the Metafabric name, Juniper is also rolling out new products that can plug in to the fabric. At the top end is the new QFX5100 Top-of-Rack switch, which includes the recently released Broadcom Trident 2 chipset. Dasgupta said that Juniper is also running an Intel Sandy Bridge chip alongside the Trident, providing a hardware abstraction layer for the new switch. The QFX5100 can run multiple versions of the Juniper JUNOS network operating system at the same time, enabling in-service updates as well as future security isolation features.

From a bare metal perspective, the QFX5100 will work with a Linux operating system running the KVM virtualization hypervisor. This allows multiple Junos images to run inside a KVM virtual machine.

In the first iterations of QFabric, QFX switches worked within QFabric deployments and required the use of additional hardware, including a director module. The new QFX5100 can work inside an existing QFabric environment or alongside Juniper’s EX switches.

Virtual Chassis Fabric

The QFX5100 can also benefit from Juniper’s new Virtual Chassis Fabric. Juniper has had Virtual Chassis capabilities ever since it first unveiled the EX4200 switch in 2008. The basic idea behind Virtual Chassis is that two or more physical switches can be logically combined into a single virtual chassis, for ease of use and management.

The Virtual Chassis Fabric now enables the combination of multiple types of QFX and EX switches into a single logical switch. In the past, QFX deployments were separate from EX deployments. Now, with the Virtual Chassis Fabric, the two architectures can benefit each other.

“We’ve taken the best from Virtual Chassis and the best from QFabric and combined the two,” Dasgupta said.

As part of a Virtual Chassis Fabric deployment, up to 768 ports of 1/10/40 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity can be combined in a single deployment without the need for an external QFabric Director. For deployments of more than 786 ports, Dasgupta said that a QFabric Director module will still be needed.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist #

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