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Posts Tagged ‘Juniper’

I believe Juniper was the first mainstream network vendor to use the term “fabric” aggressively to describe its next-generation network architecture when the company announced QFabric back in early 2011. There may have been another vendor that used it first, but Juniper made it mainstream. Since then, almost every network vendor uses the term “fabric” broadly, and Juniper itself announced its next phase in fabric-based network when it unveiled MetaFabric in late 2013.

Subsequently, I’ve heard many customers, investors, and even some other analysts ask me what the difference was between MetaFabric and QFabric. The first thing to understand is that while QFabric and MetaFabric are related, MetaFabric does not in any way replace QFabric. I’ve heard some rumors about Juniper’s QFabric being retired because of MetaFabric, but in discussions with Juniper, I can most certainly say that this is not true. QFabric is here to stay.

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As most people who follow the networking industry know, Juniper outlined its vision for software-defined networks (SDN) at last week’s Global Partner Conference in Las Vegas. I’ve had a bit of time to digest the information, answered a number of questions about it, and I thought it was time to share my thoughts on what they announced and the impact to the industry.

First, summarizing what Juniper announced, they began the presentation with a number of myths regarding software-defined networks and then articulated Juniper’s principals of SDNs. I’m not going to repeat these, but if you missed the webcast, Jim Duffy’s article does a good job of highlighting them.

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I started the analyst part of my career way back in March of 2001. I was hired by the Yankee Group to run a group that looked at broadband services and the first report I wrote was on a technology called “IP Service Switches.” These products came from companies like CoSine, Ennovate, Allegro, Celox, Shasta (acquired by Nortel) and SpringTide (acquired by Lucent), and promised to deliver scalable, low-cost virtual services from the edge of the service provider network. The idea being that a carrier could offer multi-tenant, value-added services from the edge of the network from a single platform. However, IP service switches never really took off and the category died a slow death.

Earlier this week Juniper made an announcement that seemed eerily similar to what these vendors tried to push back in 2001. The company unveiled a new set of hardware and software products that run on the MX Series 3D Universal Edge router. By deploying the MX 3D, service providers can offer a number of revenue-generating, value-added services, such as load balancing, firewalls, content management, security services and content streaming right from the edge of the network. After a closer look, the range of services Juniper is offering is broader than what was available in the IP Service Switches of 10 years ago, but the concept is the same.

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Many vendors will claim to have invented the term “network fabric.” I’m not 100% sure who actually used it first but in my mind, Juniper was the first to go mainstream with it. It’s a little like MPLS was back in the day. Ipsilon actually invented it but Cisco evangelized it and made it a real market. So I’ll give Juniper the nod here and acknowledge that launching the project “Stratus” is when the term “network fabric” actually went mainstream. I believe Brocade was the first vendor to ship a fabric, allowing them to wear that badge of honor.

The launch of Stratus was several years ago and, since then, much has transpired. Stratus became QFabric, David Yen jumped to arch rival Cisco and QFabric has fallen under tremendous media scrutiny as a product that has failed to come close to the initial hype around it. So, the question I pose is whether QFabric is indeed the game-changing technology Juniper says it is, or it’s just a cool idea that never really catches on.

On the positive side, I will say that the concept behind QFabric is interesting. It’s very simple and elegant – a big distributed switch. I remember having a discussion with Juniper’s Andy Ingram about Occam’s Razor. That is the theory that states when there are multiple solutions to a problem, the simplest one is the best one. What’s simpler than a single-tier network? Nothing. So, according to that principle, QFabric should be a smashing success.

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Well 2011 is winding down now and this past year was certainly a big year of change in the network industry.  The industry saw the introduction of “fabrics” into data centers with several traditional network vendors ship product this year.  In addition, hot start up Arista flexed its muscles and started making traction, particularly in the financial services vertical.  But alas, 2011 is coming to an end and its time for some predictions. So, for 2012 here is what I expect to see in the network industry. 

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I’ve come to the conclusion that the adoption of 100 Gig to be much bigger than 40 Gig. To me, 40 Gig was really a step on the way to 100 Gig. Ethernet has historically jumped in logarithmic steps and a 4x jump just doesn’t seem like the bang is there for the buck spent on new hardware and upgrades.

The standard for 100 Gig-E was ratified last year and since then we’ve had a number of vendors, the usual suspects – Juniper, Cisco, ALU and Brocade, launch 100 Gig-E line cards. Recently, I had a chance to discuss the topic with Greg Hankins, Global Solutions Architect for Service Providers at Brocade.  I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the 100 Gig-E market.

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