Juniper's QFabric Looks Ordinary Inside

12:40 PM -- The QFabric data-center fabric from Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) is built on some acronyms familiar to the routing world, according to a posting on the IP Space blog Tuesday.

Specfically, it's using the familiar border gateway protocol (BGP) -- a foundation of router networks everywhere -- in its control plane, and it appears to use multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) encapsulation for forwarding packets to the right place, engineer Ivan Pepelnjak reports.

Pepelnjak, who's also chief technology advisor for NIL Data Communications, goes into gory, command-line detail about how he came to this conclusion while playing with someone else's QFabric test environment. In the MPLS case, for instance, he describes finding MPLS-like labels -- but he adds that Juniper doesn't appear to be using normal, vanilla MPLS.

He notes that the information he's found might be publicly available but not necessarily easy to find.

The really cool part, at least from Pepelnjak's viewpoint, is that he had predicted this architecture three months ago, before he finally got a hands-on test.

The less cool part is that QFabric's proprietary middle sounds so ... ordinary. But Pepelnjak doesn't seem too disappointed.

"If anything, I'm delighted there's still a networking vendor that can create innovative solutions without unicorn tears, relying instead on field-tested technologies ... which might, among other things, make the solution more stable," Pepelnjak writes. (The ellipsis is in the original.) Judging from his writeup, QFabric's proprietary middle does have some good stuff, particularly in that it "presents the IP+MPLS network as a single switch" without resorting to "any OpenFlow or SDN [software-defined networking] magic."

QFabric was announced in early 2011, and Juniper started taking orders in September.

It's one of a few fabrics being proposed for the data center, the idea being to consolidate layers of the network while simplifying operations for the humans involved. To name a few competitors: Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has FabricPath; Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) has its Brocade One; and Avaya Inc. is pushing a fabric based on a standard protocol called shortest-path bridging.

More about QFabric:

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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