Network Middle East electronic edition 16th May, 2005

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By  Simon Duddy Published  May 15, 2005

Juniper goes gorilla hunting|~||~||~|Juniper CEO Scott Kriens went gorilla hunting at the Las Vegas Interop IT and infrastructure conference and exhibition. He might have left his camouflage jacket and rifle at home but there is no doubt that his keynote speech and recent Juniper policies have lined up infrastructure rival and industry heavyweight Cisco in its sights. Kriens used his keynote speech to preach the benefits of the pure play approach over the one-stop shop model. Although, Kriens did not mention Cisco by name, John Chambers doesn’t have to be a genius to work out that the one-stop shop is Cisco. Juniper is encouraging customers to adopt a pure play approach, arguing these vendors aren’t distracted from excellence by committing to broad product portfolios. This is not a new tack and like any approach it has pros and cons. Focusing on best of breed products theoretically allows the enterprise to maximise performance in each area. On the other hand, a one-stop shop offers a simpler purchase model, theoretically better integration and one neck for the customer to choke when things go wrong. Cisco is the one-stop shop supreme in the Middle East, with many enterprises opting for the giant simply because it is so dominant and almost the de facto standard for networking gear. Cisco also has a highly respected support infrastructure. So is Juniper on a suicide mission? Many enterprises are entrenched with Cisco and in a straight slugging match the bigger Cisco will undoubtedly floor its relatively small rival. Cisco hasn’t been nicknamed the gorilla for nothing. It has been known to use extremely aggressive sales tactics to beat the life out of opponents, including offering to buy rival kit from enterprises if they agree to switch to Cisco. There is a glimmer of hope for Juniper, however. The networking market is in flux at the moment and while the big profits are still in routers and switches, new technology areas make the networking business more fluid that it may seem at first glance. In the coming years, standard performance-based routers and switches are likely to become commoditised and features that add efficiency to the network will be the new cash cows for network players. If Cisco grabs this ‘new money’ it will maintain its position and probably crush its existing rivals once and for all. However, if others can get in faster with more effective solutions, they have the potential to become a ‘new Cisco’. By focusing on traffic processing, Juniper aims to become the leading pure player vendor in what it hopes will be the next big revenue stream in the networking world. At Interop, Kriens said there is ‘billions and billions of dollars’ to be made in the traffic processing market and Juniper will seek to dominate it in the same manner that Cisco has controlled the router market. To this end, Juniper has invested almost US$500 million in acquiring Peribit Networks and Redline Networks. Juniper will take on employees from the acquired companies and form a new business unit called the Applications Products Group. Juniper has also beefed up its voice story, by announcing a non-exclusive partnership with Avaya to develop products and act as reseller for each other. The router giant also paid US$67.5 million for VoIP specialist Kagoor and its session border control products. The vendor has a good chance with its new strategy but it will have to be on top of its game to beat Cisco to the punch. A key factor will be how new solutions perform in test labs and pilot studies. Setting itself up as the leader in the nascent field of traffic processing could backfire if rival solutions perform better. Juniper must prove it is indeed best of breed. Another key battlefield for Juniper will be integrating the newly acquired companies quickly and effectively. The acquisitions display some signs of desperation. While Peribit in particular has a strong worldwide customer base of top enterprises, the combined revenues of the three acquired companies did not exceed US$50million in 2004. Kriens must swiftly use Juniper’s muscle to turn this paltry figure into ‘billions and billions of dollars’. Another sign that Juniper is approaching crunch time is Kriens’ advice to his partners. Speaking at Juniper’s inaugural Partner Summit in Las Vegas, which coincided with Interop, the Juniper supremo says partners should quickly decide if a potential customer wants to switch from a competitor and move on quickly if feedback is not encouraging. There is no doubt that Juniper is going somewhere fast. Whether it is up or down will be determined not only by how effectively Juniper executes its policy and how cannily it anticipates the market but also how robustly the gorilla retaliates.||**||

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