New look Juniper opens up, readies for next decade

Vendor ushers in the next generation networking plans

Juniper Networks' wide-ranging announcements last week, billed as the most significant since its founding in 1996, included a sweeping array of software, silicon, systems and partnerships designed to take the company and its customers into the next decade of networking.

The big splash was staged on the 40th anniversary of the Internet's birth, hosted by the New York Stock Exchange (Juniper's most recent showcase account) and featured the unveiling of Juniper's new corporate logo.

Why the makeover?

"It puts a stake in the ground for our vision for the next decade," said Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson at the event. "We're driving to a platform view that's horizontal and open to integration: one platform with unlimited applications."

With that, Juniper unveiled its new strategy for opening and licensing its JUNOS operating system to developers and partners. Juniper actually opened up JUNOS two years ago under its Partner Solution Development Platform (PSDP) program, and Cisco soon followed with a similar program for IOS.

But the new Juniper push, called JUNOS Space, is intended to demonstrate the number of diverse application and platform opportunities for the Juniper operating system.

"The API is the same. They're bringing it forward, re-explaining it," says Eve Griliches, an analyst at IDC. "It's a larger marketing push [to attract] newer, additional platforms," she says, likening it to Apple's application recruitment drive for its iPhone.

Licensing JUNOS code, however, is new, and is an effort to drive JUNOS into key markets where it can head off Cisco. Blade Network Technologies, a maker of blade server switches for data centers, is the first recipient of a JUNOS license. This will enable Juniper, Blade and data center partners such as IBM to offer a single rack-to-core operating system for the data center and block Cisco from grabbing more of the blade server switch market, says Vikram Mehta, Blade president and CEO.

Anything would be helpful. Juniper, which entered the Ethernet switching market in 2008, had a 1.1% revenue share of the $3.8 billion market in the second quarter of 2009, compared with Cisco's 66.7%, according to Dell'Oro Group.

Juniper is also fortifying its hardware to gain more share in service provider edge routing, among other markets. The company rolled out a new generation of processors, called Trio, designed to massively scale the edge of the service provider network. It also introduced new MX-series Ethernet edge routers with "3D" scaling of bandwidth, subscribers and services.In this market, Juniper is still chasing Cisco but is now essentially tied with Alcatel-Lucent for second place with 19% revenue share of the $1.2 billion market in the second quarter. Alcatel-Lucent has the momentum, with 11% growth from last year compared with Juniper's 14% decline and Cisco's 38% drop, according to Dell'Oro Group.

The 3D technology, however, will give the MX series a fourfold performance increase over Cisco's ASR9000 and more than twice that of Alcatel-Lucent's 7750 services router, claims Kim Perdikou, executive vice president and general manager of Juniper's Infrastructure Products Group.

Juniper also hopes the technology will raise its fortunes in wireless. At last week's event, Juniper disclosed Project Falcon, an initiative to develop products for the mobile packet core and subscriber management of 4G networks, as well as "universal edge" applications integrating wireline and wireless networks. This attempted to clarify Juniper's position in this market after losing partner Starent Networks to Cisco, which is buying the company for nearly $3 billion. 

Lastly, Juniper provided an update on its Stratus cloud computing project that included three steps to cloud-enable a data center: simplify the environment through a unified fabric managed as a single switch; share resources through virtual partitioning and VPLS; and secure the environment with security policies based on the new JUNOS Space platform and enhancements to Juniper's SRX Services Gateway.

Still, Juniper did not disclose deliverables for the Stratus or Falcon projects. And attendees were still clamoring for more meat from the event, which seemed fixated on sweeping technology advances rather than specific solutions for key markets.

"There are no details on the data center side," says Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group. "How are they going to play in the converged data center? How do they address that aside from the loose IBM, Dell OEM deals? They need to out some meat on the bones."

One of the omissions from the prepared remarks was a FibreChannel over Ethernet (FCoE) strategy. (FCoE is regarded as the quintessence of a unified data center fabric.)

However, Andy Ingram, a vice president in Juniper's Fabric and Switching technology group, did say later that an FCoE strategy will be forthcoming. It will combine organic development with partner contributions. But he adds the economics of FCoE – its Converged Network Adapters cost twice as much as Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapters, which cost two to four times as much as Ethernet network interface cards – don't currently make sense.

Still, customers may want a more definitive road map, analysts say.

"The problem is … there are no [Juniper] products today to help the data center," says Cindy Borovick, a data center analyst at IDC. "But customers are making their investments now."

Borovick says Juniper's data center strategy right now is targeted at large content sites that deploy network-attached storage connectivity rather than Fibre Channel. She notes, though, that Juniper's exclusive agreement to license JUNOS to Blade does provide a blade switch strategy and offers another avenue for JUNOS to be embedded in data centers.

Juniper's broad brush stroke may be intended to avoid the perception that it is responding to trendy new markets with point products.

"They don't want to be perceived as going down rabbit holes," says Ron Westfall, research director at Current Analysis. "But one item not addressed is that Cisco outsells them despite the technological differentiation. How are they going to improve in the field sales?"

At least one high profile customer doesn't seem too worried about the specific gaps still to fill in Juniper's strategic direction.

"It's clear they aim to be a leading provider of network solutions, like we are [a leader] in our industry," says Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext. "This is about our business models converging, our partnership is just beginning. Juniper was the right company to work with."

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