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) - Networking specialist


(JNPR) - Get Juniper Networks, Inc. Report

is taking aim at arch-rival


(CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems, Inc. Report

with the launch of its new QFabric technology, which it claims will significantly boost data center performance.

Part of a project code-named 'Stratus', QFabric aims to speed up traffic on data center networks. Juniper launched the first of its QFabric products, its 10-Gbit/s Ethernet QXF3500 switch, on Wednesday, and plans to debut two additional devices, the QF/Interconnect and the QF/Director, during the third quarter.

"We believe that we're offering this as a revolutionary step," David Yen, general manager of Juniper's fabric and switching business group, told


. "When the network packet comes in

to a QFabric network, it's processed just once, as opposed to multiple times with other

networking architectures."

This means that data can be transferred around a 6,000-server data center in less than 5 microseconds, according to Yen, as opposed to between 50- to 100-microseconds in a traditional data center network.

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The executive explained that Juniper has improved the performance of its QXF3500 switch by replacing some of the copper components with Fiber, and has also enhanced the device's silicon. The QF/Interconnect and QF/Director will provide, respectively, links between different switches, and the "brains" of the QFabric network, he said.

"Collectively, the QFabric line is Juniper's approach to data center convergence from three layers (core, aggregation, top of rack) to two, and ultimately one," explained Paul Mansky, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, in a note released on Wednesday. "This will compete versus the Nexus family at Cisco and the VDX products from




Juniper, along with Cisco, Brocade and



, is expected to

receive a boost

from the

push towards cloud computing

as service providers bolster their networks to cope with an explosion in data-intensive traffic.

Networking giant Cisco, however, shrugged off Juniper's QFabric launch.

"Bringing simplicity to the data center


an important customer problem -- one we began to address more than three years ago with the introduction of our Nexus data center switching portfolio," wrote John McCool, general manager of Cisco's Data Center, Switching & Services Group, in an email to


. Cisco, he added, has already amassed 10,000 customers for its


technology, and books more than $1 billion in annual revenue from its flagship Nexus 7000 switches.

Juniper, however, has been enjoying good product momentum in its own right, and recently posted strong

fourth-quarter results

. Yen told


that, in addition to cloud computing, he expects to see QFabric deployed in the tech-heavy finance sector. "Worldwide, more than 60% of equity transactions are conducted by computers using complex algorithms," he said.

Juniper investors, though, should not hold their breath waiting for a QFabric boost, according to Canaccord Genuity's Mansky. "Fundamentally we see little immediate impact from the launch, though anticipate this to be a potentially significant growth engine in the coming years," he wrote. "Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) embrace will be key, most notably from existing

Juniper EX

switch partners


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Shares of Juniper closed down $1.01, or 2.38%, at $41.44 on Wednesday, outpacing the broader retreat in tech stocks that saw the Nasdaq fall 1.21%.


Written by James Rogers in New York


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