Underneath it all

The networking world is about to undergo a dramatic transformation - but are enterprises ready?

Tags: Cisco Systems IncorporatedJuniper Networks IncorporatedUnited Arab Emirates
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By  Imthishan Giado Published  May 27, 2010

This month, I took a walk outside the traditional enterprise world of applications and servers into the weird and wonderful world of networking. As you'd expect, it got very complicated, very fast.

And quite rightly so, as befits a technology which underpins every enterprise in the world and affects quite literally, every interaction an organisation has today. The event in question was Juniper Networks' recent EMEA summit in Barcelona, where I got the rare opportunity to sit down with the firm's founder and CTO, Pradeep Sindhu.

As you'd expect, he was quite outspoken, particularly about arch-rivals Cisco - but considering that John Chambers' outfit is the resident 800lb gorilla of the networking industry, it did not come as a surprise. What did surprise me is the approach he's taking to bring the fight to his rivals, which strikes me as more than a little brave.

Juniper's plans revolve primarily around its still-largely-under-wraps Stratus project - which quite simply, aims to collapse the number of layers in the datacentre to a single, cloud-based one which can dynamically scale and allocate its resources as necessary to the task at hand. It's ambitious, but also requires a fundamental rethink of the ways internal networks are organised.

It's also diametrically opposite to the way Cisco plans to do things, which as many of you will no doubt know, is through its unified computing system (USC). Quite simply, Cisco is getting into the server business with its own range of products - and that's bad news for long-term partners HP and IBM. By building its own products, Cisco can build systems that are more tightly integrated with its existing range of networking products, while further simplifying management.

So which strategy will prevail? It's difficult to tell. Juniper's pure-networking play is a long shot - it's asking datacentre managers (who are far from adventurous at the best of times) to completely rethink the datacentre, but Cisco's approach does them no favours either, locking them into what eventually becomes one-stop shop, as Sindhu calls it.

Cisco getting into hardware came to many as a surprise, but the truth is that the San Jose-based firm has been pulling unusual U-turns for some time now. Long known as a hardcore networking company, its acquisition of SOHO and SMB network provider Linksys in 2003 brought it into a whole new market and certainly lifted its visibility to the general populace. While Juniper's Sindhu was adamant that the firm would stay away from similar forays in the consumer space, that only holds true for today - you might well find Juniper products on storeshelves in the fture. 

And speaking of small fish being gobbled up by large fish, HP's acquisition of 3Com and its own growing ProCurve decision is a signal to the industry that the big players won't take the loss of long-term relationships lightly - they'll go out there and buy the companies they need to compete. Juniper's well-regarded product range which can be found at many an ISP both in the region and across the world, make it a very juicy target for the few remaining major vendors which don't have an in-house networking division. At this point, Dell looks like the most likely candidate to make a bid, but don't discount IBM, either.

Sindhu and the rest of the Juniper team remained coy about a possible M&A play, but try not to be too surprised if something happens early next year. It's all contingent of course, on whether Juniper can successfully execute its ambitious strategy and deliver a product line based on Stratus in 2011. If so, Cisco would have something to be worried - but something tells me, Chambers would still have something up his sleeve anyway.

3219 days ago
Zeeshan

Great article, So what do you think will happen to startup companies like Arista Networks, Force10 networks, who are trying to be focused only in cloud computing

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