Juniper Tries Its Hand at Application Acceleration

Juniper Networks this week launched the new QFX5100AA switch family in a bid to help organizations accelerate application traffic flows.

The QFX5100 is available in a number of configurations, including 72 ports of 10GbE in a 1 U platform; 96 ports of 10GbE in a 2 U platform; and 32 ports of 40GbE in a 1 U platform

“QFX is a product line and QFabric is a system that uses products from the QFX product line,” Andy Bach, Chief Architect for Financial Services Team, Juniper Networks, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet. “The QFX product family is designed to solve the datacenter needs of today’s most demanding enterprise and service provider environments.”

Juniper first began development of QFabric technologies under the code name Project Stratus. After $100 million of investment, QFabric officially debuted in February 2011. The original promise behind QFabric is flatten network layers and reduce complexity.

Instead of using proprietary silicon, Juniper is leveraging merchant silicon from Intel and Broadcom in the QFX5100-AA switches. Bach commented that even though Juniper is leveraging merchant silicon, however, Juniper’s new technology incorporates performance enhancements to deliver on the need for customers who desire to bring apps and compute into the network.

Juniper’s idea behind building an application acceleration switch is not exactly the same thing as having an Application Delivery Controller, like one from F5 Networks.

“The QFX5100-AA is different and is designed for application deployments, which see benefit by placing the compute application directly in the switching data path of the network, lowering latency and dramatically improving performance,” Bach said. “In the end, the technology enables our customers to create and develop new apps so they can differentiate and be quick to market.”

In addition to the QFX5100-AA, Juniper is also releasing the QFX-PFA acceleration module. Bach explained that the PFA plugs into the slot on QFX5100-AA.

“Specifically, the PFA contains the FPGA chip so customers can now offload business-critical apps to be processed on this switch,” Bach said. “Without this module, customers would need separate compute resources to run the apps.”

Juniper has partnered with Maxeler Technologies to help enable the software on the QFX-PFA. Bach explained that Maxeler offers a development interface for the QFX-PFA module, which, along with its offered professional services, will make it easier for Financial Services Institutions (FSI) to customize, develop and integrate their apps into the PFA.

“We chose to partner with them due to their industry-leading data flow engine and Application Gallery that already includes offerings for FSIs,” Bach said.

In terms of the specific type of applications that Juniper is aiming to accelerate with the QFX5100-AA, Bach commented that targets are financial services apps that handle market data feeds, social media feeds, order execution routing and big data analytics.

“Historically, the programming of the FPGA chip is done using VHDL, which can be an involved language,” Bach said. “By partnering with Maxeler, the way packets flow through the FPGA can be manipulated using a Java environment.”

The QFX5100-AA isn’t Juniper’s first acceleration product. Juniper offered its DX data center acceleration product line from 2005 until 2008.

“The QFX5100-AA is a different technology, designed to address different customer needs,” Bach said.

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

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