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Juniper fabric architecture ups competition with HP, Cisco

Juniper Networks has launched a fabric architecture that centralizes management for data center and campus networks.

Juniper Networks Inc. has introduced a network fabric that stretches from the data center to the campus, so the entire platform can be managed and secured from the same set of tools.

The core element of the Unite fabric architecture, launched this week, is the new Junos Fusion Enterprise software that handles network configuration and management across the fabric. Juniper has also upgraded its Junos Space Network Director and EX9200 programmable Ethernet switches to support the campus architecture.

Juniper applied the "principles" behind a software-defined data center in developing Unite, Denise Shiffman, corporate vice president for Juniper Development and Innovation, said.

"We tend to talk about overlays, VXLANs, network virtualization in the data center only," she said. "We're bringing those principles to the campus, because from the data center, I can manage as if it were an overlay. Instead, it's a fabric."

Junos Fusion Enterprise collapses multiple network layers into a single layer for the data center and campus, according to Juniper. Creating a single tier makes it possible to manage all network elements as if they were one system.

The Unite architecture is based on an open industry standard called the 802.1BR Bridge Port Extension. The LAN standard specifies the technology needed to create bridges across networks. It is often used to connect data centers to the cloud.

The EX9200, a campus and data center core platform, underpins Unite. Because the architecture requires more connectivity options, Juniper developed new 1 and 10 GbE modular line cards for the EX9200.

The Junos Space Network Director centralizes control and automation across the campus-data center fabric. The software lets network administrators provision, configure and deploy one or more groups of switches. The software also monitors and analyzes the state of the fabric architecture.

The Unite architecture is set for release in the first half of next year.

Competition for campus networking dollars

Overall, Unite makes Juniper more competitive with rivals HP and Cisco, Nolan Greene, analyst at IDC, based in Framingham, Mass., said. "Those [companies] who have seen benefits from Juniper's datacenter fabrics may be interested in an edge fabric, which is not offered by Cisco or HP."

However, Juniper might have difficulty convincing competitors’ customers to adopt a new architecture just for a campus network, said John Fruehe, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, based in Austin, Texas.

"In the campus space, customers are looking for more standardization, more streamlining," Fruehe said. "The last thing that they want is to buy into a new grand plan that unifies the data center and the campus."

Until the latest architecture, Juniper hadn't achieved "the tightest levels of integration" between products in its networking portfolio, Greene said. For example, the vendor has lagged behind HP, Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise in unifying wired and wireless networks.

"This certainly ups their potential with buyers who value single-vendor infrastructure," Greene said. However, for wireless technology, Juniper customers have to turn to its partners Aruba, owned by HP; Ruckus Wireless Inc. and Aerohive Networks.

Juniper and its competitors are battling over a growing multibillion-dollar market. Annual worldwide revenue from campus and branch switches will grow from $12.5 billion in 2014 to $13.6 billion in 2019, according to IDC. Revenue from data center switches will increase from $6.4 billion to $9.8 billion.

Unite security

Juniper is providing security for Unite through its SRX Series Services Gateways firewalls. Integrated with the systems is Juniper's cloud-based threat prevention service.

Juniper is also providing the option of adding products from Vectra Inc., which analyzes network traffic for ongoing cyberattacks. Juniper uses its Open Convergence Framework (OCF) to provide the interface for integrating third-party products into its networking gear.

Next Steps

Where network fabrics, SDN intersect

Choosing a network fabric vendor

How network fabrics complement SDN


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