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Juniper has stuffed key elements of QFabric into Junos, creating a smaller-scale fabric option that seems like it would appeal to more customers than the full-fledged QFabric would.
It’s part of a new data-center architecture called MetaFabric that Juniper is launching Tuesday. The news gives the company some spotlight time before what promises to be a data-center-heavy week: Arista has a news webinar set for Nov. 4, followed by Cisco‘s Insieme launch on Nov. 6.
MetaFabric, which is available immediately, is a grab-bag of products and features, all generally advancing the causes of better flexibility and higher capacity in the data center.
One key piece is the Virtual Chassis Fabric (VCF), a software element that builds an any-to-any fabric for 768 10-Gb/s ports, as opposed to the 6,144 that QFabric supports.
Meta vs. Q
QFabric isn’t going away. It remains Juniper’s offering for very large data centers — the kind that might need 6,144 endpoints to be networked and managed as a single fabric.
What’s happening is that Juniper is distilling the QFabric architecture down to software that’s been integrated into the Junos operating system. Put another way, QFabric Director is now available as part of Juniper’s control plane.
That means some of Juniper’s switches can make use of QFabric’s proprietary, internal protocol that creates a one-hop connection between any two switches across the fabric. That protocol created some controversy for Juniper in 2011, when it launched QFabric with proclamations of following open standards. Juniper pointed out that the proprietary protocol applies only to Qfabric’s interior, which doesn’t interface directly to the outside world. Partners’ hardware attaches to QFabric using only open protocols.
Anyway, VCF combines the QFabric protocol with Juniper’s virtual chassis feature, which allows multiple switches to be managed as one. VCF’s resulting fabric is not only smaller than QFabric’s but accommodates 1-Gb/s ports as well, from Juniper’s EX4300 switches. Juniper will continue to tout QFabric as an all-10G option.
The full QFabric structure has been slow to pick up customers, partly it targets the biggest data centers — and possibly because just after QFabric launched, software-defined networking (SDN) started gaining momentum, giving customers other ideas to consider. MetaFabric, being a smaller and quite logical extension of the QFabric idea, could prove to be an easier sell.
“MetaFabric is good news for QFabric. It creates more flexibility in the deployment model” for customers already using Juniper’s QFX top-of-rack switches, says Zeus Kerravala, analyst with ZK Research. Customers now have options other than implementing that QFabric mandala.
Kerravala also wonders “if MetaFabric becomes the architecture,” with QFabric not dead but moved to the background of Juniper’s plans.
But Wait There’s More
MetaFabric also includes new capabilities added to Junos Space Network Director, Juniper’s network management software. The include zero-touch provisioning with automated, prefab network configurations, and a level of automation so that when a virtual machine moves, associated network elements move with it.
Juniper has also announced that the Contrail Systems SDN controller now supports VMware’s ESXi hypervisor.
On the hardware side, Juniper is introducing a new line of top-of-rack switches, the QFX5100. It adds VXLAN support and 40-Gb/s ports to Juniper’s mix, with virtual-chassis capabilities that allow a mix of 1-, 10-, and 40-Gb/s ports across EX and QFX switches to be managed as if they were on a single switch.
Juniper’s MX routers are getting some enhancements in Tuesday’s announcement, too:
- Universal SDN Gateway capability, which allows the MX to connect two SDN domains that use different controllers. This could help the customers that are trying SDN in islands, giving them some freedom to experiment.
- The overlay replication engine. This is aimed at multicast applications, where the replication of a traffic stream usually happens as late as possible, to save bandwidth. Juniper has added a hardware-based capability, inside its Trio chipset, to build the tunnels for the multicast streams.
- Ethernet VPNs — industry-standard extensions to VLANs. Cisco has similar capabilities with its Overlay Transport Virtualization and Locator/ID Separation protocols (OTV and LISP); Juniper is taking pride in pointing out it’s going the industry-standard route.
- Virtual-machine traffic optimization, which automatically updates the path changes that occur when a virtual machine moves. This prevents an unnecessarily roundabout path from staying alive in the network.