Juniper Brings QFabric to the Mid-Tier

Networking vendors in recent years have steadily been moving away from the spanning tree protocol (STP) when connecting large networks. Into that void, TRILL and shortest path bridging(SPB) are a pair of standards effort undertaken by multiple networking vendors, but not Juniper. Juniper has been going its own route to develop lower latency and better management for network and it’s called QFabric.

QFabric, $100M & Project Stratus

QFabric was first officially announced in February of 2011, after $100 million of investment and multiple years of effort under the guise of Project Stratus. The initial rollout of QFabric with the QFX3000-Gswitch was all about very large deployments and could manage 6,000 Ethernet ports as one logical switch. Juniper is now bringing QFabric down to the mid-tier of data center with the QFX3000-M, QFabric interconnect that can scale to manage up to 768 ports.

Denise Shiffman, vice president of Marketing, Enterprise Systems, Platform Systems at Juniper told Enterprise Networking that there is need and demand from mid-tier data centers for a QFabric solution. She noted that for space constrained locations, the QFX3000-M has a smaller form factor than the larger QFX3000-G.

EX logically managing multiple physical switches

While Juniper is pushing QFabric as an interconnect solution for data centers, they also have an additional switching solution for logically managing multiple physical switches. Juniper’s Virtual Chassis technology which is deployed on its EX class switches, enables multiple physical switches to be managed as one logical switch.

This week, Juniper expanded the capabilities of Virtual Chassis for the EX8200 switch. Previously, two EX8200 switchescould managed together as a single switch and now Juniper is expanding that to eight. Going a step further, the eight EX8200 switches do not all have to be in the same location. The EX8200 switches that are all managed as one logical switch can now be up to 80 kilometers apart and located in up to four disparate locations.

Dhritiman Dasgupta, senior director, Enterprise Switching & Routing Product Marketing, Platform Systems Division at Juniper explained to Enterprise Networking Planet.comthat, in contrast, QFabric is a solution for a single data center and multiple data centers can be connected via Juniper MX class routers. Prior to the expansion of Virtual Chassis on the EX, those switches would have also required an MX router to connect to a different data center.

Connecting across multiple data centers

Connecting switches across multiple data centers is something that Cisco has also been working on. Back in 2010, Cisco introduced Overlay Transport Virtualization(OTV) as a solution for bridging data centers with Cisco Nexus 7000 switches.

“OTV is a proprietary protocol from Cisco and it runs over IP instead of MPLS,” Dasgupta said.

According to Dasgupta, some Juniper customers have told him that they didn’t feel that IP was as secure as MPLS. Juniper’s solution for them has been to run the MX routers connected via MPLS to connect data center switches.

From a scalability perspective, Dasgupta stressed that on the EX8200, the ability to scale to eight physical chassis provides a lot of headroom.

“Will there be a case when people need more than eight? We don’t know,” Dasgupta said. “But we do see the need to scale switch virtualization at the core beyond two.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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