Juniper's Entry into Enterprise LAN Switching: Now the Journey Begins

Can Juniper succeed selling enterprise LAN switches at this late stage in the market?

NEW YORK -- Juniper Networks made a very late entry into the market for enterprise LAN switches when it launched, Jan. 29, its new EX Series of LAN switches, which it developed from the ground up.

The big question now is how will Juniper, which built its mainstay router business on telcos and carriers, get a leg up into a mature market that is solidly dominated by Cisco Systems?

CEO Scott Kriens believes that the market is at a new inflection point that will open up new opportunities to non-Cisco providers. And besides that, Juniper has done this before.

"Cisco sold routers for 12 years before we entered the market," Kriens said in an interview at the EX Series rollout. "What changed was the criticality of the network to the customer. Performance, reliability, scale and security became far more important, and that created an opportunity for being better at those things to differentiate us. Since then we've grown our share by 30 or 35 percent."

He added that the same thing is happening in the enterprise market: performance, reliability and security of the enterprise network is far more important than it was in the early days of the market.

"What's not working in most enterprise networks today is the amount of time it takes to enable new, mission-critical networks to be added to the network," Kriens said. "The urgency now is that people need to roll out applications faster, without security compromises. We have a network operating system and network infrastructure that lets you deploy your applications more quickly [and gives] you visibility into your security from one end of the network to the other. We think that's the same discontinuity we saw in service provider networks years ago."

To set itself apart from Cisco and others, Juniper will not play the lower-price-for-higher-performance card used by others such as 3Com, although customers will likely welcome the chance to use Juniper's entry as pricing leverage against Cisco. Juniper's strategy is to be the high-performance supplier of any technology it chooses to market, Kriens said.

With list prices starting at $4,000 and $6,000 for its new EX 3200 and EX 4200 stackables, the new switches are not cheap. But they are fast and reliable, believes beta tester Frank Ziegler, vice president of communications for the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. "This is the fastest switch we've ever tested. Juniper is putting that reliability into the enterprise edge," Ziegler said.

And Juniper is asserting that the new switches, thanks to their simplicity and smaller footprint, can help customers to put a big dent in their operating costs.

"We can operate with 65 percent less power and 80 percent less space, which translates into big cost of ownership benefits," Kriens said. "[And by] having a single operating system [with JUNOS], we are eliminating complexity, which is the enemy of reliability and cost. That means if it's simpler to operate, it's less expensive to operate."