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

patentchoi 12/5/2012 | 5:22:07 PM
re: Juniper's QFabric Looks Ordinary Inside

How does QF simplify the network ? From what I understood this is a rip-n-replace closed solution that pretty much rules out any innovation. If it was at least stds compliant it would have simplified further development.

chachi04 12/5/2012 | 5:22:07 PM
re: Juniper's QFabric Looks Ordinary Inside

<div>Thanks for the article Craig. &nbsp;I do work for Juniper, so my opinion may be a tad bit biased. &nbsp;:-) &nbsp;Now that we got that out of the way,&nbsp;I think you (and Ivan) have hit upon a couple of key points that were important design factors for QFabric. &nbsp;</div>
<div>The first would be the usage some familiar acronyms from the routing world. &nbsp;"MPLS-like", BGP - while not vanilla implementations, these should come as no surprise given Juniper's heritage in the carrier class routing space. &nbsp;Using technology that is familiar, proven, and exhibits known behavior &ndash; and for our architects to then pick out the best elements of that technology - is critical for stability and operational simplification.</div>
<div>The second point is around one of the design goals for QFabric &ndash; to abstract complexity from the data center network. &nbsp;We looked at scale and flexibility and what we had to do to get both, and that ultimately led to the design we have today. &nbsp;At the same time, externally, we wanted to keep things as open and flexible as possible. &nbsp;This puts us in a great position to capitalize on SDN and OpenFlow-based applications as they take hold. While others in the industry may be using SDN-magic to figure out how to simplify the network, we've already done that with QFabric, so we can focus on other use cases and opportunities for innovation.</div>


Bob Saccamano 12/5/2012 | 5:22:07 PM
re: Juniper's QFabric Looks Ordinary Inside

and more Juniper spin that its proprietary system is really not proprietary but standards based... seems all a bit desperate.&nbsp; Now if LR gets a scoop that Juniper admits it made a mistake eschewing TRILL then that would be a story worth reading.

e-dawg 12/5/2012 | 5:22:05 PM
re: Juniper's QFabric Looks Ordinary Inside

I think what people don't understand is that the Q-Fabric is merely an exploded chassis based switch. &nbsp;The TOR's are linecards, Interconnects are the backplane, and the Directors are the routing-engines/supervisor engines.

By that right, is Juniper really proprietary? &nbsp;Can you put Juniper linecards in a Cat6500? &nbsp;Furthermore, can you put a Brocade Trill-enabled switch in any other vendor's "Fabric" solution? &nbsp;Can you put Cisco Fabricpath in a Brocade environment? &nbsp;


chachi04 12/5/2012 | 5:21:58 PM
re: Juniper's QFabric Looks Ordinary Inside

It's a fair question nooser, and I think it depends on how you look at QFabric. &nbsp;In our eyes, QFabric *is* the network, so operationally, it's a single logical device and a single management interface for the entire network. &nbsp;This makes any adds, moves, and changes much simpler than traditional network topologies.

Granted if you want to enjoy this simplification, you would be replacing any 10G access switches because you simply would not need them anymore. &nbsp;We've said all along that QFabric is ideal for data center transformation projects, so there is a degree of investment to be made. But with QFabric, you can then focus innovation across the entire data center IT stack (servers, software, storage, etc) since the network is no longer holding anything back. &nbsp;&nbsp;

alr 12/5/2012 | 5:20:10 PM
re: Juniper's QFabric Looks Ordinary Inside



Juniper Networks is laying off approximately 500 employees as part of a corporate restructuring effort -- 4% to 5% of the company's workforce.

Some industry insiders said the team responsible for Juniper's QFabric data center networking technology has been particularly targeted for staff reductions. The technology has received positive reviews, but uptake has been slow. Juniper recently added new components to QFabric to make it more affordable to midmarket enterprises. One insider at a competing vendor said senior members of the QFabric team are actively looking for work.

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