September 15, 2010, 9:24 PM — From its position in the switching trenches, Juniper Networks has planned not one, but two ways to flatten legacy three-tier data center networks.
Juniper calls its approach the 3-2-1 data center network architecture, promoting the idea that enterprises can cut one tier out of their data center networks today and, ultimately, another.
The result will be the flattest of all flat networks - a single layer operating as one giant switch.
Juniper shared that ultimate vision, called Project Stratus, almost two years ago, but products aren't expected till 2011.
A two-tier fabric
In the meantime, enterprise network planners who see value in a flatter architecture can take advantage of a two-tier fabric using Juniper's Virtual Chassis technology.
Applied at the access layer, Virtual Chassis technology allows up to 10 EX 4200 top-of-rack switches to operate and be managed as a single logical switch comprising hundreds - 480 in the case of the EX 4200 - of Gigabit Ethernet ports.
Juniper also will have Virtual Chassis technology available on the EX 4500, a 48-port 10G Ethernet switch that will be available later this year or early next, says Calvin Chai, a director of enterprise marketing at Juniper.
Enterprises can mix and match EX 4200 and 4500s, which also will support Converged Enhanced Ethernet and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) for storage convergence, in the same Virtual Chassis fabric.
"You still have your physical devices, but instead of using the traditional chassis-based model with a single chassis sitting in a rack and slotting in modules for ports, you can have these one-rack unit servers distributed throughout the data center. You can extend the Virtual Chassis fabric across floors, buildings or in the same rack using fiber connections," says Chai, noting a distance limitation of 50 kilometers.
"And, you don't have to have 10 different uplinks from each of those switches. You just need one uplink because it behaves as one logical switch, so you're saving on port density and can collapse the core and aggregation layers - you simplify the network as you scale it up," he adds.