Data Center Directions
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Data Center Directions
Sorting Out the News and Making the Right Choices
Nov 13, 2013

As we look back on the last couple of weeks there was a lot of news about networking that we are still taking in. The networking industry is evolving and there are important considerations to make as you build out your networks. We are seeing an ever increasing need for bandwidth, a need for greater application awareness and the need to quickly provision, trouble shoot and adapt the network to ensure application performance and availability. As a result we are seeing a transition to software defined networks. If you are building networks to serve your business then you are probably considering how your choices today will affect your ability to respond to the changes that come in the future. How do you get to where you need to be? What is best for your organization?


A Simple Architecture Supports Virtualization

You can start with a simple architecture at the physical layer that can handle the requirements of a virtual layer that is becoming more and more complex. A simple, open, and smart network infrastructure will help you deal with virtualization, make the migration to cloud and SDN today, and also prepare you for whatever tomorrow brings. Juniper’s MetaFabric Architecture was built with these principles in mind. 


Juniper has been on the path to simplifying the network since the introduction of Virtual Chassis on the EX platforms in 2008. This created a model where the data center switches are managed as one system and the number of devices to be managed is reduced. In 2011 we introduced QFabric which further simplified the architecture, eliminating a layer of devices, and providing for any-to-any connectivity in an SDN like system with a central controller. We continued to simplify the network with Virtual Chassis Fabric that provides an any-to-any architecture in a streamlined design and we extended the Virtual Chassis architecture to include the QFX switch line.


Simplifying the network within a single data center is one thing, but as your applications become more virtualized, distributed, and global you need to think more broadly and connect and move these applications across multiple data centers. To this end we announced support for EVPN on the MX Series which is a standards-based protocol for extending Layer 2 across the WAN to support VM live migration. With this technology your data centers can act together to support your workloads and ensure application performance and availability as well as provide disaster avoidance and fast recovery. And finally, adopting server virtualization and moving to the cloud means you need to simplify your management environment to ease the migration. One way you can simplify management is to use a virtual overlay network such as Juniper’s Contrail. You can take advantage the Contrail controller regardless of which open orchestration platform you use, such as OpenStack or Cloudstack, or which hypervisor system you use including VMware ESXi, KVM , and XEN. It’s important that the virtualization stack can talk to the physical network so we integrated our MX Series routing hardware and our QFX switches with VMware’s NSX virtual overlay network system.


Visibility and Analytics for Troubleshooting

As your data center environment evolves and data becomes even more critical to the business it is essential to maintain visibility into network traffic. You need to be able to respond to the dynamic requirements of the applications that drive your business. This means being able see what’s happening at the network (both physical and virtual), and turning that raw data into knowledge that you can act upon. It means making the network smart by using data to apply policies on the network in an automated way.


Juniper introduced a new version of Network Director that provides network analytics to provide performance monitoring and to enable trouble shooting of the physical devices. Telemetry and analytics give you broader insights into your traffic flows so that you can tune the network and optimize it for your applications. You can use the feedback that analytics provides to determine the best configurations and then to automate device configuration, reducing the time and cost of managing the network.


Network Director also provides support for configuring physical to virtual ports and integrates with Open vSwitch in VMware environments. The analytics capabilities extend in to the virtual environment enabling you to tie it more effectively to the physical network. Network Director also provides for a programmable API so that you can customize the integration with the virtualized environment and add new capabilities as your requirements change.


Migrate Platforms and Build Upon Open Standards

Openness for our customers means flexibility.  The one constant in the data center is that requirements will keep changing – you will need to add scale, you will need to support new protocols, and new technologies will come on board.  The last thing customers want is to keep refreshing their infrastructure every time something new comes up. For instance, you need to be able to gracefully migrate platforms as you meet the need to add scale. Juniper recently introduced the QFX5100 top of rack switch. This device provides for a migration from 1 GigE to 10 GigE and 40 GigE. It can work stand alone, or in a Virtual Chassis environment, or a QFabric architecture and in a Virtual Chassis Fabric.  Like the EX and other QFX models the QFX5100 can be managed by Network Director providing a single point of management as well as integration with the virtual server environment and with SDN virtual overlay networks.  We continue to streamline and integrate our portfolio so that you can invest in the QFX today and expect to use it as a building block for any switching fabric that you want in the future.


Keeping your network architecture open to change means building it on open networking standards and being able to interconnect and integrate with other systems. Juniper’s MetaFabric architecture consists of a number of components and capabilities that can be combined together and with other network devices to deliver value. Our virtual overlay network system Contrail was built to deliver advanced networking capabilities with an open approach, and the agility that comes with using proven networking protocols. Juniper’s switches & routers are Openflow enabled and work with any vendors SDN Controller.


The MetaFabric architecture provides open interfaces to integrate your systems with Contrail, Network Director, and our switching network underlay. It also provides integration with Puppet and Chef for IT workflow automation, and OpenStack for cloud orchestration. Juniper is a supporting member of the OpenDayLight organization. This integration lets you use Juniper devices stacks that are designed with best of breed components. This provides the flexibility for you to design to your requirements with no dependencies on the delivery schedule of pre-built systems.  


Choosing what’s Right for your Organization

In the end it gets down to a question of what is the better data center solution for your organization. As you make your choices consider the cost of the hardware and software, the ease of use, the stability of the systems, the overall performance, and ease of troubleshooting. The key will be how well a solution works end to end with your data center model. Does it serve your needs?  Can it reduce OPEX? The emphasis should be on building a complete solution that meets your needs now and is open for what comes in the future. In the end Juniper believes that you are best served by building your data center infrastructure on best of breed elements, so that you can make the open choices. We believe that you are best served by using standard protocols so that your environment will interoperate in the future. You are best served by standard interfaces so that your devices will interconnect.  Your devices should be designed so that they are economic to operate. Finally you need to be able to gracefully migrate from one system to another as you deploy new applications.  These benefits will be delivered by the infrastructure that is simple, open and smart.


To learn more see the paper, The MetaFabric Reference Architecture.