Juniper is challenging Cisco's dominance of the router market with alternative technology at a lower price. So does it have what it takes to swim with the big fish?
Juniper Networks has traditionally derived 95% of its revenue from service providers, but this year has made several announcements in the enterprise networking space.
Juniper acquired NetScreen to crack enterprise security, a market often characterised by best-of-breed hardware and software. But now Juniper has its eye on a larger part of the enterprise infrastructure: routing.
Dominated by Cisco, very few suppliers have successfully penetrated this market, which requires a lot more than just top-notch technology. So how can Juniper succeed where so many have failed?
First, the company has gained more than just security with the acquisition of NetScreen. NetScreen's biggest strength is its purpose-built security appliances, such as its integrated firewall and IPSec virtual private network boxes.
NetScreen also brings its proven Secure Sockets Layer VPN technology, which has the largest market share of any such product. And now, the newest products from NetScreen will bridge the gap between an enterprise's security and routing infrastructure.
In June, Juniper announced the NetScreen-5GT ADSL, which adds an ADSL modem and router to NetScreen's popular security gateway. Cisco targets this space with its 800 Series access routers, but trails the 5GT in comprehensive security features, such as integrated anti-virus functions.
Juniper has also introduced a new series of access routers. The J-Series access routers include many of the same components as Juniper's larger M-Series and T-Series lines, such as modular software, integrated VPN capabilities and native Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS). The J-Series is built on Intel's network processors, which help reduce costs and provide a key differentiator over Cisco.
The J2300, for example, carries a list price of £1,115, which is less than a similarly configured Cisco 1721, at £1,394. Network processors create a flexible platform for Juniper to add standards such as Session Initiation Protocol support for voice over IP and emerging standards such as network- to-network interfaces for MPLS.
Juniper has also built a better channel programme. Juniper has borrowed from NetScreen's channel programme and opened up the throttle to introduce J-Partner. This new programme - whose members include Ericsson, Lucent Technologies and Siemens - builds a meaningful segmentation for Juniper to reward its channel partners on aspects such as the number of product evaluations, sales volumes and revenue growth.
Juniper will offer certifications in products for carrier routing, corporate routing, SME routing, security systems and security appliances. Done well, this channel strategy will ease the burden of Juniper penetrating the enterprise routing market by relying on J-Partner to help it do so.
Juniper has a long road ahead. Despite encouraging signs and a bold strategy, Juniper is still walking a fine line. It must maintain a laser focus on its business plan lest it stumble financially and lose its momentum. Juniper has three obstacles to overcome:
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- Digesting the scale of the NetScreen acquisition. Although snapping up NetScreen has provided huge dividends on the product side, it is still a substantial undertaking. Juniper needs to prove that this near £2.2bn purchase has not derailed it from its core competency in the service provider space. It will take a few more quarters for Juniper to demonstrate that research and development and technology innovation have not slipped.
- Building enterprise support capabilities. The enterprise and service provider markets are fundamentally different. Juniper has excellent technical staff but it will have to cross-train systems engineers to support a new networking environment within the enterprise.
- Filling its portfolio with switching products. To truly compete for enterprise networks - from both a market and mindshare perspective - Juniper needs a full product portfolio.
Whether it is achieved through partnership, internal effort or acquisition, Juniper needs to provide end-to-end networking solutions. Juniper, teamed up with a switching supplier such as Enterasys Networks, Extreme Networks or Foundry Networks, would make a more formidable foe for Cisco.
Expect Juniper to spark a price war in enterprise routing. Despite the presence of many competitors, Cisco is by far the dominant player across access, edge, and core router markets. But now Juniper is bringing a credible alternative that offers better technology - such as network processors, modular code and better security integration - at lower price points.
Unlike many of Cisco's competitors, Juniper has a proven track record of breaking into a key Cisco market, as it did with service provider routing. Enterprise buyers should expect Juniper's aggressive pricing to force Cisco's hand and router prices will drop even further as these suppliers fight it out.
Can Juniper unseat Cisco? No, but it can become a realistic alternative to Cisco for enterprise gear. Juniper shows promise with new products from its acquisition of NetScreen, its new homegrown routing products and improved enterprise channel programmes. However, the move to enterprise networking still noticeably lacks switching products and is a departure from Juniper's heritage in the service provider space.
Routing options from Juniper
Juniper's mix of technology, reliability and lower prices makes it a credible alternative to Cisco. The company's routing code has long been proven to be interoperable with Cisco in the demanding carrier environment. Enterprises can choose from the following Juniper products:
- NetScreen 5GT-ADSL for small branch offices and teleworkers. This all-in-one access device is an attractive product for enterprises that need integrated broadband support and have moderate routing needs. The integrated security features make the box an economical option.
- J-Series for branch offices and site-to-site virtual private network connectivity. The J-Series' comprehensive routing and VPN capabilities make it ideal for establishing connectivity between branch offices or remote sites requiring two T1s worth of bandwidth (although the product is capable of scaling up to eight T1s or DS3 speeds).
- M-Series for enterprise backbones and datacentres. Should an enterprise require more horsepower, Juniper has updated and provided fresh interfaces for its tried-and-true edge routers. The M-Series is the right size for enterprises with their own Wan and datacentre connections.
Robert Whiteley is an associate analyst on Forrester's telecoms and networks research team. This article was written in conjunction with Stan Schatt and Benjamin Gray of Forrester Research