Juniper maps out 2009 plans

Juniper's EX 8208 chassis-based data center switch due to ship in Q1

Juniper plans to stay the course in 2009 -- stick hard and fast to its high-performance networking mantra, invest in areas where customers can lower total cost of ownership, and not be distracted by trendy markets like video, collaboration and wireless LANs.

"We will spend money on making sure [customers are] secure; where they can drive TCO down; and increase choice in a multivendor strategy," says Mark Bauhaus, executive vice president and general manager of Juniper's service layer technology business group.

With that in mind, Juniper is refreshing everything across the company, Bauhaus says. Products that came out in the last two quarters will foreshadow investments in 2009. In the second half of 2008, Juniper began shipping its EX series LAN switches; introduced SRX security gateways for 10Gbps networks; integrated VPNs, unified access control and switching into its management software; and broadened its WXC line of WAN application accelerators.

Switching will get a kick in 2009 with the first quarter shipment of Juniper's EX 8208, its chassis-based data center switch. Anticipation of the 8208 is heightened among industry watchers who view it as a potential threat to Cisco's Nexus 7000 and Catalyst 6500 in data center switching.

Juniper says the 8208, combined with other Juniper EX- and MX-series switches and routers, can reduce total cost of ownership by as much as 52 percent in capital expenditures, 44 percent in power and cooling, and as much as 55 percent in data center rack space. For data center virtualization, the EX switches support virtual chassis technology to reduce the number of interswitch links and the amount of equipment required in the data center.

Virtual chassis allows as many as 10 of Juniper's fixed-configuration EX switches to be interconnected into a 480 Gigabit Ethernet port "switch." This enables, for example, data center managers to extend a tool such as VMware's VMotion across physical boundaries yet within the same logical Ethernet domain, enabling virtual machine mobility between physical data centers.

"People are looking for speed, low latency and high reliability with low TCO in the sense of management and provisioning," Bauhaus says. "We provide the features from a networking perspective...pooling resources around a single OS and management infrastructure that give people exactly what they want from a virtualization perspective."

But the jury is still out on Juniper and its prospects in the enterprise. Cisco is so dominant and has marginalized practically all of its longtime competitors, that Juniper seems to be fighting an unwinnable battle.

"[Juniper] doesn't have the architectural longevity that Cisco has in talking about how they get into VMware environments, how they help with data center flexibility because they can tie into all of the automation that surrounds virtual machines," says Rob Whiteley, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"Juniper [needs to] establish credibility in the enterprise," says Zeus Kerravala of The Yankee Group. "They are certainly credible in the security space but in overall networking, they're a relatively new entrant in switching [and] they really don't have a very broad portfolio."

Kerravala believes a big gap in Juniper's portfolio is wireless LANs. Juniper had interoperability relationships with various WLAN vendors, but Kerravala and other observers think Juniper needs a stronger WLAN story to boost its enterprise fortunes

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