In part one of my talk with David Yen, we discussed the various factors forcing a change in how data centers are architected. In this post, we dive a bit deeper into Juniper’s data center network strategy and the competition.
Q: OK, we just chatted at length about what has taken place over the years in the data center. This leads me back to Juniper. There have been a lot of announcements over the past year. Can you summarize how we are tackling this issue for our customers?
A: With all the drawbacks of the legacy data center network approach, and after hearing about specific pain points from our customers, we started looking for ways to enhance the network. In May 2010, Juniper announced our architectural vision called “3-2-1.” Simply, it’s time to reconsider the multi-layer switching network for all the reasons I discussed previously. With the technology available today, enterprises and service providers can reduce layers in their data center network to create a very efficient two-layer architecture.
Obviously it's not just by using the latest and greatest switches. You have to supplement it with additional technology like Juniper's Virtual Chassis fabric technology, a software technology that allows a customer to aggregate multiple physical switches to behave like a larger logical switch. By doing that you simplify the management by eliminating the need to individually manage the member switches. Furthermore, within an aggregated cluster, you can accommodate the east-west traffic without going to the top and coming down—in other words, you reduce the number of hops, which reduces latency. By reducing data centers to fewer larger switches to interconnect, you can eliminate switching layers required to connect/aggregate switches. And you reduce pressure and demand, which will allow you to complete the entire switching network by the next layer chassis-based switches. So it's a two-layer architecture.
Ultimately the goal is to provide a single-layer network to drive any kind of network traffic. That’s the goal and object of the Project Stratus that we are working on. That's the 3-2-1 architecture concept—collapse the traditional three-layer network to a simplified two-layer architecture today with our Virtual Chassis technology and in the future to a single layer. It’s been extremely well received among our customer base, and we are very pleased with that.
Q: When Project Stratus becomes commercially available, is that something that will impact Juniper’s existing business or is it really a completely new opportunity from your standpoint at the very high end of the data center?
A: Project Stratus is very complementary. Juniper’s switching business—all the boxes we build, if you will—is more conventional. It's subject to industry-standard interfaces and industry-standard packaging—24 ports, 48 ports, gigabit and 10 gigabit Ethernet—but they go everywhere. They fit in the legacy architecture, and they fit in the newer two-layer architecture. They go everywhere. They fit in data centers; they fit in campuses.
Stratus, in a way, is half product and half solution. It goes one level higher, because it takes the whole data center network into consideration. And between our switching products and our fabric products, we share the same management layer software, which we call Junos® Space. Plus the internal operating system, Junos, is a common user interface. So it's actually very complementary.
Q: Can you tell me how our vision differs from the competition?
A: Let’s take a look at an established vendor such as Cisco and a start-up company such as Arista. As you know, Cisco has a lot of good engineers and is quite respected. However, their data center approach tends to be more incremental. They also need more adjacent markets to quickly grow their business. When a technology or when an industry becomes more mature, incremental is no longer enough if you’re trying to achieve even better economics for customers. You need to start collapsing some architecture layers. Cisco chose an approach to start integrating the storage interface, networking interface, and computing.
In contrast, Juniper’s fabric technology, first with the Virtual Chassis fabric of the EX Series switches and then with Project Stratus, is also collapsing architecture layers, except we chose to focus on the data center network while preserving customers' freedom and choice of best-in-class technologies. They can still choose their preferred server and storage and other appliances, and we just focus on the network. But the fundamental spirit is all trying to look for opportunity to collapse architecture layers.
Now, Arista—being a start-up company-tends to focus more on high-performance computing. Because the true scale of networking services consists of a very rich set of Layer 2 and Layer 3 protocols, it takes time to develop that technology. Arista has chosen to go after the merchant silicon, which provides the shortest latency. And they focus on good packaging and trying to go for this high-performance computing industry, including financial services customers, who are attracted by reducing latency. Except that one-hop latency is not a total picture, because when you're actually running the data center, you’re talking about a complete path. You are talking about one server to another server, which you have to traverse the access ToR, the chassis fabric.
Unlike the competition, Juniper also helps drive simplification through a single network OS, Junos, that runs across all switching, routing and security devices. Junos follows a single software release chain and offers a flexible software platform with Junos Space. No one else can offer what Juniper can to the developers around the world. An open, multipurpose network application platform that allows customers to directly program multiple layers of their networks can only enhance user experiences, deliver smart economics and allow for faster time to market.
So, different companies have different approaches.
Q: We’ve talked about how the data center market has transformed into what it is today. We’ve talked about various aspects for Juniper’s 3-2-1 architecture and now a bit about some of the competition. What’s the ultimate goal for Juniper’s data center approach?
A: Juniper is leading the data center network industry by providing our 3-2-1 architecture. Ultimately, our goal is to provide a single flat fabric that connects everything in the data center and ultimately helps to deliver on the promise of a more efficient, more agile data center.
It means connecting any server, every server and storage component, every security appliance and the routers in the data center and collapsing them to a completely flat network that is homogenous, fair, and lossless. Furthermore, the user should be able to drive any kind of data center traffic, not just Ethernet networking, but also fiber channel storage traffic if you so desire. And that's exactly the goal, the objective, of Juniper’s Project Stratus.
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