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Earnings call reveals Juniper QFabric momentum, pending security news

Juniper said during its latest earnings call that more QFabric customers are adopting the full system rather than just top-of-rack devices.

Juniper Networks' third-quarter earnings call revealed some QFabric momentum, a pending network security update, more senior executive shuffling, and some software defined networking news.

Juniper QFabric saw some growth this quarter, as it has every quarter since the product hit the market, but the nature of those sales appears to be shifting. Juniper's switching business, both EX switches and its QFabric line, grew year-over-year in the third quarter, CEO Kevin Johnson said during this week's quarterly earnings call. He also identified two new QFabric customers: the University of Frankfurt and BOCI, a Chinese financial services company. BOCI has deployed the full QFabric architecture using the QFabric M Interconnect, the backplane device Juniper introduced this year to scale the product down for midmarket enterprise use.

The adoption of Juniper QFabric remains a hot topic for networking pros who want to talk to real customers before they commit to this novel architecture. QFabric is Juniper's data center network fabric that operates as a large modular switch with three chief components: Multiple QFX3500 top-of-rack devices serve as nodes at the edge of the architecture and function like a line card on a modular switch; the QFabric Interconnect is a large chassis device that functions as the switching backplane and connects multiple QFX3500s into a full-mesh topology; and QFabric Director is an out-of-band control and management plane device. Juniper has, in the past, reported any buyers of QFabric devices as QFabric customers. But the majority of them have bought only the QFX3500 and are using it as a conventional 10 Gigabit Ethernet data center switch in non-QFabric deployments. Juniper argued that these sales offer a migration path for customers to deploy a full fabric later.

Financial analysts pressed Johnson on this issue during Juniper's earnings call. He wouldn't offer specifics, but spoke generally about progress:

"[T]his was a quarter with QFabric where we saw much more activity on the interconnect and the directors … the full QFabric systems that were connecting together many of the nodes, whereas in prior quarters, [we were] seeing more of the activity on the nodes or the top-of-rack side," he said. "So I think I attribute much of that to the fact that the release of the QFabric M interconnect has enabled an entry point for customers that are now doing more of those deployments. I don't have specific numbers … but this quarter was much more about the full QFabric systems, where in prior quarters, I think there was a lot of groundwork laid for QFabric nodes that are now being connected together into the full data center solution."

Heavy turnover among executive vice presidents

Juniper's 500-employee layoff, reported recently, has led to some major executive shuffling at Juniper. Four executive vice presidents have left or announced plans to leave the company since those layoffs began. They include:

  • Stefan Dyckerhoff, executive vice president and general manager of the platform systems group;
  • Mark Bauhaus, executive vice president of service, support and operations;
  • John Morris, executive vice president of strategic relations; and
  • R.K. Anand, executive vice president and general manager for the data center business unit.

Juniper revealed Dyckerhoff's pending departure during the earnings call. He will stay connected to Juniper as a staff consultant for CEO Kevin Johnson and his executive team, but he'll probably spend most of his time focusing on a new career as a venture capitalist. Rami Rahim will take over Dyckerhoff's role as head of the platform systems group. Rahim most recently was senior vice president and general manager of Juniper's edge and aggregation business unit.

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Anand took over leadership of the Juniper QFabric organization when David Yen defected to Cisco last year, just hours before he was to deliver a keynote for Juniper at Interop.

The Bauhaus and Morris exits triggered some major restructuring, according to CRN. Bauhaus' service and support organization will fold into the company's sales organization. Morris' strategic alliances organization will merge with the company's worldwide partner organization.

New firewalls coming?

Juniper has a major release coming later this quarter that will address "manageability and security product design," according to Robert Muglia, executive vice president of software solutions. Muglia made this comment while discussing the state of Juniper's SRX firewall sales to enterprises.

Juniper has been engaging with its security customers on the development of "an end-to-end, integrated security strategy," Muglia said. He said a major release is coming this quarter, followed by incremental releases throughout 2013.

OpenFlow support everywhere

Johnson said Juniper will offer "productized support" of OpenFlow 1.3 on its MX, EX and QFabric products next year, so its data center products can "inter-operate with these many SDN controllers that are being built."

Juniper's QFabric product, with QFabric Director, its out-of-band, centralized management and control device, is conceptually similar to software defined networking (SDN), he added. Johnson did not mention whether Juniper will build further up the SDN stack. HP Networking and IBM have announced OpenFlow controllers with northbound application programming interfaces, while Cisco has offered a proof-of-concept OpenFlow controller to research and university customers.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, news director.

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