Juniper up next with cloud switches

Juniper’s data center announcement next week is expected to include switches based on new silicon that allows them to establish a flat fabric for cloud computing.

Sources say Juniper will unveil its Stratus line of data center and cloud switches on Feb. 23. Juniper announced its Stratus project two years ago as a flat, low-latency, lossless switching fabric for high-performance computing environments for enterprises and service providers.

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The Stratus line will include 10-Gigabit Ethernet top-of-rack and core switches, sources say, as well as Juniper’s entry into 40 Gigabit Ethernet. Inter-switch links between the top-of-rack and core switches will be 40G Ethernet, they say.

The top-of-rack switches could ship this month, while the core switches are expected to ship late this year.

Juniper declined to comment for this story.

With Stratus, Juniper is looking to essentially deconstruct three-tier data center switching architectures into two, and eventually one. This is intended to increase performance and reduce operational time and cost by eliminating the need to deploy and manage additional products.

Sources say the Stratus switches will support a common control plane and a virtual data plane across Layer 2 switches. While physically dispersed, each switch port will function as if it is one virtual hop away from any other port.

The switches will also feature port-level virtual Layer 2/3 services that can migrate with workloads, sources say. This is similar to the virtual machine service profile mapping feature Cisco and Brocade already support, or announced support for, on their respective Nexus and VDX data center switches.

“If you think about Juniper’s Virtual Chassis, I believe it extends these capabilities across a fabric,” one source said. “The added benefit is L3 services, especially for security.”

Virtual Chassis allows several fixed-configuration Juniper EX switches to be combined into a single logical switch for increased scale and density, and to reduce a three-tier switching architecture into two tiers. Juniper has disclosed plans to extend this capability across more EX switches and MX routers.

Virtual Chassis and new Juniper techniques in the Stratus switches to replace Spanning Tree in Ethernet data center networks will be offered as an alternative to the IETF TRILL specification. TRILL, or Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links, is designed to overcome the slow topology reconvergence times associated with Spanning Tree by enabling shortest-path multihop routing for large-scale Ethernet and Fibre-Channel-over-Ethernet data center networks.

Juniper, however, is not a proponent of TRILL while Cisco and Brocade have both said that their shortest-path multihop techniques are both based on TRILL.

“(Stratus) is radically different than what we’re seeing from Cisco,” a source says. Cisco, the market leader in Ethernet switching, does not want to endorse a technique that reduces the number of ports or switching tiers in a network, he says. “How aggressive can Cisco be when these new architectures cut down the number of switch ports?”

Sources says the Stratus switches could also include a traffic segmentation technique above and beyond VLANs; Layer 2 encryption in either switch-to-switch or port-to-port configurations; and tight integration with virtual switches on blade servers and NICs, perhaps through planned support for the emerging IEEE 802.1Qbg Edge Virtual Bridging standard.

IBM partnered with Juniper on the Stratus project but one source says there will be virtually no IBM content in the products.

“They were there just to bless it,” he says.

Juniper will not push for a per-switch 10G density lead with the Stratus switches either, he says. Instead, they will stress how many servers can be supported per 10G port instead of how many 10G ports there are per box.

Arista currently claims the wire-speed 10G port density lead with 384 ports on its 7500 data center switch.

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