Weaving a New Data Center Fabric

Michael Vizard

Juniper Networks has become the latest networking vendor to roll out an Ethernet fabric that will help transform the way we think about managing the data center.

On the one hand, the launch of QFabric follows similar announcements from Brocade, Cisco, Extreme Networks and others. But given the slow pace of change in the data center, it's not like Juniper is all that late to the party.

The real question becomes at what rate are IT organizations going to embrace the concept of Ethernet fabrics that promise to reduce the amount of gear that needs to be managed in the data center?

In the case of QFabric, Juniper has created an Ethernet switch that the company claims is 10 times faster, uses 77 percent less power, reduces the number of networking devices in the data center by 27 percent, takes up 90 percent less space and delivers a nine-fold reduction in operating resources than rival offerings. The QFabric specifically consists of a QF/Node that acts as the engine of the fabric. QF/Interconnect is the high speed transport device and QF/Director delivers a common management framework.

Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson says there has been a lot of transformation in the data center already with the advent of virtualization and multicore processor systems. Networking technology has been slow to respond to those changes, which create a requirement for more intelligent Ethernet switches to help manage highly dynamic data center environments.

But the relatively slow pace of convergence in the data center has as much to do with internal IT inertia as it does trying to come to grips with new technologies, which means the race to weave these new Ethernet fabrics in the data center will be a marathon rather than a sprint. Obviously, Cisco has the most to lose in terms of shifts of this magnitude, creating new opportunities for competitors that are also trying to leverage concerns over Cisco's thrust into the server space, as opposed to being a non-aligned supplier of networking gear.

The one thing that is for certain is that the data center networks of tomorrow are going to have to be a whole lot smarter to deal with continuous scaling of virtual and physical servers across public and private cloud computing frameworks. It's just not certain yet who is actually going to be the provider of those new networks.
 



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