Two years after promising a strategy to overhaul data centre networks, Juniper Networks Inc. is about to start delivering the hardware that will make it possible.
Originally called Project Stratus, the equipment and software is now dubbed the QFabric architecture, which the company said Wednesday will “revolutionize the data centre” by cutting the number of network layers from three to one and boosting performance by up to 10 times.
“Three layers may be appropriate for club sandwiches and wedding cakes,” said Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson, “but three layers is not appropriate for data centres.”
Company executives didn’t hold back on what they believe the impact of a data centre designed around the new architecture.
“We believe QFabric will improve the performance on the fastest computers by 100 times over the next five years,” claimed chief technology officer Pradeep Sindhu.
That could mean everything from “harnessing of [nuclear] fusion to produce unlimited energy,” he said, to a “dramatic acceleration of the rate of innovation.”
However, network managers eager to start on this trip will have to wait a few months: Juniper will only introduce the first product, theQFX3500 top of rack 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch, shortly. Other components are coming in the third quarter.
For now, the QFX3500 can be used to chop a three-tier network to two-tiers, company officials said.
Meanwhile fully-equipped QFabric data centres are still in customer trials.
Pricing was not announced, but the company said the QFX3500 will be competitive with Cisco System Inc.’s Nexus 5548 switch.
To take full advantage of QFabric, mangers will have to dedicate either an entire data centre to its Juniper’s new devices. More likely, they slowly start to integrate QFabic when building a new pod of servers.
This vision of a collapsed data centre network is one that most network equipment manufacturers are honing, with FabricPath from Cisco System Inc., Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture (VENA) from Avaya Inc. and Brocade One from Brocade Communications Systems.
However, Zeus Kerravala, senior vice-president of research at the Yankee Group, says Juniper’s strategy is a more radical leap than others.
“It really is one big flat network,” he said in an interview. “The main challenge for Juniper,” Kerravala added, “will be to get customers to think about their network differently.”
Andre Kindness, an enterprise networking analyst at Forrester Research, is also impressed by the Juniper strategy, saying the company made a strong case. The promised five to 10 milisecond latency is “incredible,” he said. Juniper’s simplified network scheme contrasts with those of some of its competitors, he added.