Juniper Employee , Juniper Employee Juniper Employee
Delivering on a Promise: QFabric is Here!
Sep 15, 2011

After 12 months of design, three years of engineering, and 140 patent applications, QFabric is now shipping.  Right on schedule, I might add—just as we promised back in February at the QFabric launch. Kudos to all the engineers who made it happen. 


I have always been a fan of Occam’s razor, which holds that when presented with multiple alternatives, the simplest is usually correct.  We had our Occam’s razor moment three and a half years ago when Pradeep Sindhu and the architects, tasked with developing a fabric for the data center, abandoned the approach taken by literally every other networking vendor.  While that approach—which employs multiple separate switches arrayed in a hierarchical structure running an overlay protocol such as Spanning Tree or TRILL—might have been the more expedient path for engineering, the Juniper team concluded it was not the simplest answer for our customers. Instead, we took a different path—one that no other vendor has followed. Here is a nice visual reminder of what makes QFabric so great:


Infographic: The 7 Defining Characteristics of QFabric


The QFabric architecture is a radical departure from traditional methods used to connect infrastructure elements in the data center and enable the promise of clouds.  QFabric is not a network; it is a flat, any-to-any interconnect for the modern data center that avoids the operational complexities of hierarchical networks. In fact, QFabric retains the operational model of a single switch while maintaining open and standard interfaces to all devices in the data center.


The benefits to this approach are clear:


  • Every application will perform better, improving the user experience. If QFabric were a chassis-based switch, it would be the fastest Ethernet chassis switch ever built. With latencies as low as 3.7us to traverse the fabric, every application runs faster—some a little, some a lot. What makes it consistently fast is its very short data path, with fewer components required to process each packet.


  • QFabric is the ideal foundation upon which to build larger, more efficient clouds.  QFabric will scale up to 6,144 10GbE ports while maintaining the operational simplicity of a single switch today and eventually to tens of thousands of ports.   This overcomes the geometrically operational complexities experienced when attempting to scale a typical network. In addition, the inherent flatness of QFabric eliminates the issues of network locality. Every device is just one network hop away from any other device, regardless of physical location facilitating VM migration.


  • QFabric is inherently simpler than competing alternatives in two basic ways.  First, it has fewer components, which means it consumes less power, space, and cooling.  Fewer components also means fewer components to fail. Second, the operational simplicity of a single switch simplifies data center operations and reduces operational errors.


  • QFabric can be easily migrated into an existing datacenter network, in the same way one would add a new Ethernet chassis switch. For example, its applications include but are not limited to; a path for server access or a core switch in order to protect existing network investments. From a migration perspective, the only difference between a QFabric and a chassis switch is the scale of capacity.


  • Finally, because of its inherent architecture, QFabric reduces capital and operational expenses.

Faster, better, simpler, less expensive. You don’t get all these benefits by simply warming over an existing switch. It only occurs when you innovate—when you fundamentally rethink the architecture. Just as we promised.  Better yet, we have met or exceeded our early customer’s expectations during the early trials with others moving quickly in the same direction and so now it is time to bring QFabric to market. Today, a new era in data center network design begins with the formal release of the first true data center fabric – QFabric which will forever change the way data centers are built and operated. Ten years from now, every new data center “network” will be a fabric. What we don’t know is how the power of the fabric-enabled data center will be harnessed and what new applications it will enable. That’s what I love about the high tech world and what I love most about Juniper—the power that innovation delivers.


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