Juniper Strikes at the Data Center
It's called the Stratus Project.
That's, uh, about all the company is saying, but Juniper chose today's analyst event as the platform for announcing the name, anyway.
It does make sense for Juniper to go after the data center. Major transitions are underway there, as enterprises are using virtualization to get more full usage out of the network pieces they've got. Servers, for example, become vehicles for whatever application is needed at the time, rather than being assigned to one application and then sitting idle until that application gets called upon.
More important, it's a major offensive front for Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). (See Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future.)
The data center is "a major opportunity for the networking vendors and "a longer-term opportunity" for Juniper, said analyst Mark Sue of RBC Capital Markets . "But aside from a fabric, we're not sure what the other elements are just yet."
By "fabric," he means Stratus -- Juniper did say it's a fabric. And the reason it's "longer-term" for Juniper is because Stratus is, apparently, a massive rethinking of how data centers get networked.
"A project of this magnitude is a multi-year effort, and we are just more than a year into it," said David Yen, executive vice president of Juniper's data center business group.
Stratus is going to be provide a one-layer fabric ("stratus" is apparently the term for a flat cloud) that can handle tens of thousands of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports.
And playing to the theme of a need for more simplicity in the data center, Juniper says the Stratus fabric is going to be managed as if it were one switch.
The potential here, Juniper says, is to provide a data center architecture that's much simpler than what's been built up over the years. Moreover, Juniper claims that the virtualization plans coming from certain other vendors -- meaning Cisco, although that company was never mentioned by name -- won't provide the kind of wholesale change that's necessary.
"These advances are not going to be brought to you by the companies that have 75 and 80 percent market share, because they have no interest in upsetting the status quo," said Pradeep Sindhu, Juniper's chief technical officer.
Sindhu also implied that Stratus might simplify the multitude of old technologies being used in data centers -- specifically, Ethernet, Infiniband, and Fibre Channel. None were developed with large-scale networks in mind; in fact, the latter two weren't really meant to be networking technologies and aren't ideal for the massive scale of data centers today, he said.
"When non-networking experts start to design networking technologies, they get fooled by the seductively simple structure at small scales," he said.
Sindhu did not specify what the alternative would be; some analysts theorize the company will throw its weight behind Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCOE). (See Juniper's Closeup.)
Finally, Juniper's ultimate master plan for the data center will rely on partners. The company isn't interested in getting into new disciplines like computing or storage, Sindhu said. The only one of those partners mentioned by name was IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM).
That's about all Juniper is saying. Yen even rattled off a list of things the company isn't yet willing to discuss: milestones, product names, configurations, pricing, availability, etc. And for the financial analysts in the room, he said that Stratus should not be included in 2009 revenue forecasts.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading