Juniper, EMC Partner on QFabric Validation for Storage Arrays

The move comes days after EMC CEO Joe Tucci moved to dispel rumors that his company was interested in buying Juniper.

EMC might not be interested in buying networking equipment vendor Juniper Networks, but that doesn’t mean the two companies won’t partner together.

The two companies announced Oct. 29 that Juniper’s QFabric data center networking portfolio can now interoperate with EMC’s VMAX and VNX storage arrays, after months of testing with EMC’s E-Lab. In addition, QFabric is now part of EMC’s Support Matrix, which offers customers pre-tested solutions.

EMC’s qualifying of QFabric means that Juniper’s QFX3500 10 Gigabit Ethernet top-of-rack switch, and QFX3000, QFX3000-G and QFX3500-M QFabric systems are now part of EMC’s Support Matrix. Through the validation

What the validation means is that businesses can leverage Juniper’s QFabric networking technology with EMC’s VMAX and VNX storage arrays when planning, deploying and scaling their storage environments, and that service providers can now offer offerings from both vendors when creating solutions for their customers.

The validation is an important step for Juniper, according to Dhritiman Dasgupta, senior director of product marketing at the networking vendor. Rather than have businesses have to deal with interoperability issues when looking to deploy QFabric with their EMC storage arrays, customers now have the validation that shows the technologies are interoperable, Dasgupta told eWEEK.

It’s also an illustration of the increasingly important role networking technology is playing in a data center that is seeing a lot of change, from cloud computing and big data to multiple operating systems and virtualization hypervisors to the rapid adoption of 10GbE.

“The network has become very important,” he said. “It’s not just a commodity.”

Juniper last year introduced its QFabric technology in an effort to flatten the data center networking environment, creating a single networking layer that offers high performance, greater scalability and simpler manageability while saving on space, power and cabling. Initially QFabric and the QFX3500 switch were aimed at large data centers, but in June the company unveiled the QDX3500-M, which brings QFabric capabilities to mid-tier companies.

Some analysts have questioned the rate of adoption of QFabric, but Dasgupta said that the response from customers has been strong, and noted that certifying new networking technology in the data center can take businesses as long as six to 12 months.

“We are very pleased with the adoption that we see, and it’s what we thought it would look like, so we don’t see any real concerns,” he said.

During the company’s third-quarter earnings call this month, CEO Kevin Johnson said QFabric revenue continues to grow, and noted that the company had signed on two new customers, the University of Frankfurt in Germany and BOCI, a financial services firm in China. Johnson also said that the company has incorporated the OpenFlow protocol on the QFabric technologies, enabling customers to use them in their software-defined networking (SDN) efforts.

The partnership with EMC comes after more than a week of speculation that EMC was interested in buying Juniper. EMC CEO Joe Tucci, in talking with analysts and journalists about the company’s third-quarter financial numbers Oct. 24, said his company was not interested in buying Juniper or any other networking equipment provider, and reiterated the EMC’s relationship with networking giant Cisco Systems.

“We believe continued innovation and network infrastructure by the partner ecosystem will enable higher-performance transmission of data in next-generation data centers,” Tucci said. “In short, we are committed to work closely and cooperatively with Cisco, our premier partner."

There have been questions about that relationship for several months, particularly given some moves made by EMC. Cisco, EMC and VMware, the virtualization technology vendor owned by EMC, have worked together for several years to offer enterprises converged data center solutions that offer servers, storage and networking in a tightly integrated bundle. The vendors run a joint operation called VCE, which sells these converged bundles.

However, EMC this year unveiled its VSPEX reference architectures, which enables businesses and service providers to create data center solutions that run EMC storage technologies and server and network offerings from a variety of vendors. In addition, in August EMC announced a partnership with Lenovo to develop new x86-based server solutions, a move that will compete with Cisco’s x86 server business.

In July, VMware announced it was buying Nicira, a player in the increasingly competitive SDN space, for $1.26 billion, which again was seen by some analysts as a sign of trouble for the EMC-Cisco partnership.

However, during the talk with analyst and journalists, Tucci looked to dispel any concerns.

"For the record, EMC and Cisco have benefited from a decade-long partnership," Tucci said. "My close personal relationship with [Cisco CEO] John Chambers goes back over 20 years, and we enjoy our friendship of trust and confidence in each other that is reflected in the way our teams work together."