DANA POINT, Calif.-Juniper Networks is raring for a fight in the enterprise networking market, now that it has a line of LAN switches to sell.
But whether the company can get past its roots as a network equipment supplier focused on the service provider market with a not-invented-here mentality remains to be seen.
Juniper officials, who spent March 6 expounding on the company's networking vision for industry analysts here, said the company believes the networking market is at an inflection point, opening new opportunities for other vendors besides Cisco Systems to gain a bigger slice of the market.
"We believe we're in the early stages of a paradigm shift, which is being caused by three things: First is the high cost of physically distributing infrastructure around the world, second is a strong requirement for simplicity and [third] is a requirement for information to be available at any time," said Pradeep Sindhu, Juniper Networks' founder and chief technology officer. That paradigm shift requires "an increasingly capable, high-performance global network," he added.
Industry analysts are not so sure. "It comes down to timing, and a large part of the Ethernet refresh business has already happened," said Joe Skorupa, a Gartner analyst. "It started three years ago. A lot of gear's already been refreshed."
Juniper lost valuable time to market with its new EX Series switches because it chose to build those from scratch rather than acquire a LAN switching vendor. But Sindhu said he believes its development efforts will pay key dividends to customers.
Because Juniper built its own new EX Series LAN switches, it does not have all the baggage associated with Ethernet switching products that have been in the market for years, according to Sindhu. "It isn't easy to get rid of those legacy pieces of code [other vendors] are sitting on. When you can start with a clean sheet of paper, integrate routing and security, it's easier for customers to build networks that are flatter," Sindhu said.
Juniper believes the network is now more critical than it's ever been to enterprises and service providers, and that the market needs the kind of high performance that its LAN switches and routers can offer, officials said. That, combined with the simplicity that its Junos software architecture can bring to operating networks gives it an edge, they said.
"For the enterprise, speed is the new currency. Speed is used to create dynamic business models. So the network is critical to success. And for us, demand is going to be there both in quantity and quality," CEO Scott Kriens said at the analyst conference.
That message resonated with one new Juniper customer who spoke at the analyst conference. "Why we decided to go with Juniper: performance, performance, performance," said Glenn Noga, CIO at Polycom. "The ingress and egress speeds were what they were advertised to be. There were no packet loss or jitter issues. They were scalable as we turned on services like firewall, quality of service and routing services. We saw the ability to use the products broadly without performance degradation," he said.
Juniper has said it intends to carve out a place for itself by providing high-performance network switching, routing and security with a common code base thanks to its modular Junos operating system. Junos, company officials said, can help reduce operational complexity, and thus lower costs while improving availability.
Still, the promised integration of functions into Junos, such as the NetScreen security services Juniper acquired three years ago, has yet to see the light of day, Zeus Kerravala, industry analyst with The Yankee Group, pointed out.
The delay, according to Sindhu, is due to the different processing requirements of security functions compared with routing and switching. "We found it necessary to make deep infrastructure changes to Junos. We believe the correct way is to make those changes very carefully and methodically when a new functionality comes about that wasn't initially anticipated. Where necessary we tighten our belts, take the time to fundamentally implement these capabilities inside the OS, then rewrite the applications such as the NetScreen firewall and deep packet inspection. All those will appear as integrated features," Sindhu said.
Along with security functions, Juniper is also working to integrate the load balancing functions it acquired with Redline Networks into Junos, although Sindhu would not give a time frame for the release of those functions.
Beyond those integration challenges, Juniper must also communicate its value proposition to the enterprise more effectively. "I know we've not been known for articulating our message exceedingly well in the past, but I think the message is crisp, clear. Our customers are not confused. They get it by the experience with our products. More broadly the challenge is getting that message across to the whole market," Sindhu said.
In the end, Juniper's success will come down to its execution and a little luck, said Gartner's Skorupa. But Juniper does have a shot at success, Skorupa said. "The dirty little secret in the industry is that Cisco has been losing share on the number of ports shipped for the last couple of years to HP [Hewlett-Packard] and Foundry [Networks]. We've seen cases where just the cost of maintenance over the life of the [Cisco] product pays for the entire HP upgrade," he said.
At the same time, Juniper could more easily take market share from several weaker players. "They could be successful if they just put Nortel and another guy out of business. Aggregating share of three or four other players into a 5 or 10 percent share could make them successful," Skorupa said.