Juniper Networks plunking down $50 million to fund network startups

Networking vendor invests in venture fund to help new companies in virtualisation, green IT and other networking fields.

Juniper Networks will give its R&D efforts a big boost by funneling $50 million into a venture fund to back new companies in virtualization, green IT and other networking fields.

The Junos Innovation Fund will target early and growth-stage companies willing to build products that work with Juniper's Junos software platform.  This in turn will provide Juniper with a de facto extension to its internal R&D work.

It will be interesting to see whether the maker of routers, Ethernet switches and other network gear funds any startups launched by Cisco alumni, who have proven to be venture funding magnets.

Juniper Networks: a brief history

The announcement comes on the same day Intel CEO Paul Otellini said Intel Capital and other venture firms will put $3.5 billion into U.S. technology firms over the next 2 years.

Juniper said in its announcement that the Junos fund follows earlier efforts by the company to invest in network firms, including Blade Network Technologies and Packet Design.

Pradeep Sindhu started Juniper itself with a $200,000 investment by Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers in 1996.

Juniper is coming off a year in which its revenue and earnings dropped from the year before, though the company did beat analyst estimates in Q4.

The Intel and Juniper announcements are welcome news for a network industry that has found venture funding much harder to come by in recent years. Some say 2010 should provide at least a slight rebound in venture-funded IPOs from 2009. Then again, the bar has been set low with just four venture-backed information technology companies completing IPOs last year.

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