Juniper's Marketing Mystery

Strange things are happening at Juniper these days including a lawsuit and a vacant VP of Marketing position

January 5, 2006

6 Min Read
Juniper's Marketing Mystery

Strange things are happening at Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) these days.

You may already be aware that they are suing some Light Reading message board participants, which we’ve covered here on the site. But that’s just a distraction. More importantly, Juniper’s got a real marketing crisis on its hands. (See Juniper Sues LR Message Boarders, Juniper Complaint, Poll to Juniper: Bad Move, and Poll: Juniper Lawsuit Still a Bad Move.)

Juniper’s VP of Marketing position has been vacant for more than six months. I can see how it might be a challenge. With Juniper’s history of vice presidents of marketing, holding that position is a bit like being the drummer in the movie Spinal Tap – you just never know when you’ll go poof! (See Lightspeed Drafts Former Juniper VP and VP Jumps From Juniper.)

We asked Juniper when they’ll have a new marketing veep, and here’s what a Juniper spokeswoman sent back:

  • In terms of the VP of marketing position, the goal is to have the most qualified candidate in this role vs. meeting any set timeline. We’ll be sure to send you the press release when issued.

OK, I’ll just sit here and watch my inbox. The lack of urgency to me is astounding. Can you imagine Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) going six days without a lead marketing executive – and then telling the press to just wait for the press release? Cisco probably has more marketing people than Juniper has employees.

Speaking of which, how many “Cisco sucks” cartoons does the world really need? Is that really a marketing strategy?

Let’s take a look at where Juniper’s marketing message has come and gone. In the old days, Juniper’s message was simple and elegant: It was the high-performance router alternative to Cisco, with an exclusive focus on the service provider market.

People liked this message. First of all, the service providers loved the fact that there was an alternative to Cisco. They could avoid getting locked into a monopoly situation. In fact, you could argue the Juniper/Cisco routing duopoly worked out better for the industry at large – as the two of them drove each other to press forward with new products. The other thing folks liked about Juniper was that it was good. The stuff worked. The company had solid financial results. Wall Street loved it. It wasn’t going to go away any time soon.

Those days are over. The message no longer supports the whole company. It’s not likely that Juniper’s going to gain any huge market-share advantages against Cisco in carrier-class routing anymore. And let’s face it, the service provider routing market ain’t what it used to be. To make the situation worse, competitors, most prominently Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), have been making major strides in the router market.

Juniper’s made a bevy of acquisitions in 2004 and 2005, looking for new growth. Juniper’s trying to encroach on Cisco’s enterprise turf, which means it’s going to go head-to-head with... what else: The Cisco enterprise marketing machine. You would think this would entail a wholesale retooling and reinvestment in Juniper’s marketing approach. (See 2005 Top Ten: M&A.)

I asked Juniper what its stated corporate marketing strategy was. A spokeswoman sent this back:

  • Juniper’s company strategy [is] to secure and assure the delivery and performance of applications over an IP network through best-in-class traffic processing. Juniper is present in the most mission critical networks – solving the most complex, fast changing problems. We sell to organizations for which the network is strategic to the business – including service providers, enterprises, governments and research and education institutions worldwide.

That pretty much covers the bases: Juniper is going to assure IP, support mission-critical apps, solve problems, and sell to everybody.

What’s the boss's vision? Yes, it's all about packets, says Juniper CEO Scott Kriens. Juniper will slice, dice, and parboil your packets. If you want, they’ll turn packets into sushi. Fine. But do service providers really want packet sushi – or do they just want a cheap, solid Ethernet switch? And how does this press the company forward into the enterprise market? What can Juniper do with packets that Cisco doesn’t?

I’m still unclear on what the “new” Juniper will look like, where it will focus, or how all these moving parts fit together. How does Netscreen fit together with Redline? What’s this Funk Software thing all about? (See Juniper Takes Two: Peribit & Redline, Juniper to Acquire Kagoor, and Juniper Gets Into $122M Funk.)

Most importantly, Juniper’s got to find a way to get edgy and cool again. As a staffer here at Light Reading has remarked, Juniper has become kind of like the Matrix movies. The first one was revolutionary. The second edition was okay. The third permutation? ZZZZZZZZZ. Yes, too many producers can be an effective way to kill a good franchise.

No, Juniper isn’t about to implode tomorrow. For all I know, their fourth-quarter 2005 numbers are said to be solid. But Juniper’s current challenges could evolve into a long-range meltdown, like global warming. In addition to the marketing issue, here are some of Juniper’s other big challenges, which are long-term in nature:

  • Ethernet switching: Enterprises and service providers alike are finding that as Ethernet switching grows up, and in many cases becomes carrier class, Layer 2 is often a cheaper route to go than IP routing. Let's face it – router ports are expensive, and carrier-class Ethernet switches are now much more fully featured than they used to be. (See Carrier Ethernet Makes Its Move.)

  • Asia: Yeah, this one is killing everybody. Competitive products are coming out of the Asian market, even in the router world. All you have to look at is Juniper Networks’ reseller, Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), which, according to recent reports, is thinking about acquiring Beijing Harbour Networks Co. Ltd. , to see where this is going – solid, low-margin products tied together by a global reseller. (See Will Siemens Sail with Harbour?.)

  • Wireless Networking: Juniper never pulled the trigger on a wireless networking deal. If Juniper really wants to branch out of the core and into the enterprise network, clearly it needs a wireless strategy. Where is it? (See Valley Wonk: Juniper's Shopping List and Juniper's Slow Shopping Trip .)

  • IPTV: Alcatel and Redback Networks Inc. have recently taken leadership positions in routing and subscriber management products with video-friendly features. This is a big deal. Many folks believe the future of networking lies in networking video. If Juniper loses the edge in video, won’t it lose its edge in routing in general? (See Alcatel Eyes Video Market, Redback Boosted by TCV, Verizon Talk, Alcatel Serges on Triple Play , Juniper Aims E-Series at IPTV, How Redback Won BellSouth, Alcatel, Redback Score at BellSouth, and Routers Answer IPTV Call.)

There is always a two-pronged approach to entering a new market: technical leadership and marketing. It seems that Juniper has been trumped in technical leadership in many of these categories by the competition. And, to a large extent, Juniper doesn’t really do much marketing, so it can’t lead there.

It’s gone eerily quiet over there at Juniper Networks. What on earth is going on? Is combing message boards and consulting with lawyers really taking that much of the Juniper executives’ time? Customers – and investors – want to know what the future holds. Juniper has yet to define its new role as a service provider and enterprise marketing player, and what it brings to the table against Cisco in the enterprise market.

Juniper: We’re ready, when you’re ready to tell us the story.

— R. Scott Raynovich, Editor in Chief, Light Reading

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like