Ethernet equipment

Feature Story: Juniper's Enterprise Vision

NEW YORK -- Yes, it's corny. Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) founder Pradeep Sindhu pulls the black cloth on cue, revealing what everyone already knows is underneath: The prized EX line of Ethernet switches, making their debut. Spotlights shine, camera shutters click, and a few bars of dated Scorpions music plays -- an uncharacteristically flashy moment for a not so flashy company.

Juniper, long a dabbler in the enterprise, has arrived.

And it's symbolic that Sindhu got to reveal the EX during the company's press and analyst event, held here last Tuesday under the ornate chandeliers of the Palace Hotel. It means Juniper's new mission in the enterprise is one that still involves the old guard, the service provider business that makes up two thirds of its revenues. (See Juniper Storms Into Ethernet Switching.)

It's a changed Juniper that's celebrating its 12th birthday this week. The company has new blood from enterprise giants like Sun Microsystems Inc. . The EX fills a gap in enterprise Ethernet. And it's coming at Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) with a "vision" for the enterprise, one that goes well beyond the NetScreen security products Juniper acquired four years ago.

But some believe Juniper's enterprise attack is still incomplete.

Critics contend the blending of service provider and enterprise markets might not be as easy as Juniper claims, and some wonder whether the company needs different faces near -- or at -- the top as it grows past the $3 billion-a-year mark.

"They live in this nether world right now, sort of half service provider and half enterprise. That makes it tough on them. Sometimes, I don't think they know who they are," says Deb Mielke, principal analyst with Treillage Network Strategies Inc.

The new lingo
Juniper's new tagline for the enterprise is "fast, reliable, and secure." The theory is that businesses rely on networked applications to a point where the network is as vital as blood vessels are to the human body.

And it's true. Enterprises are starting to demand carrier-class features, playing into Juniper's hands. "Juniper has a chance to be disruptive here," says Ray Mota, an analyst with Synergy Research Group Inc.

But go to any John Chambers keynote these days. The Cisco CEO does talk about networks being fast and secure. He follows it up, though, with a message about how video and collaboration are driving business. It's touchy-feely stuff, but some analysts wonder if Juniper couldn't use a little more of it.

"John Chambers is up there telling me I've got to be in video and collaboration, and that the world's going to change. They're tapping into emotion," Mielke says. "People buy on emotion. Even technology people buy on emotion."

In fact, the criticism against Juniper has long been that its technology pitch, which service providers love, doesn't really work in the enterprise. "Part of what they're challenged with is talking to the right audience," says Robert Whiteley, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc. "They're too speeds-and-feeds and product-oriented."

Juniper CEO Scott Kriens concedes as much.

"It's not really about the speeds and feeds, it's about the performance of the applications," Kriens tells Light Reading. "There's no CIO I know who's saying, 'If only I had a bigger box.' They're saying, 'If only I had faster deployment of applications. If only I had more security visibility worldwide on my network. If only I had simpler operations, lower cost of ownership' -- those are the priorities."

At the same time, Kriens rejects the idea that Juniper should emphasize end-uses like video. That's too Cisco-like.

"It's kind of like saying if you buy the satellite from us, you have to buy a television from us as well," he says.

Still, some analysts left Juniper's EX launch wondering how much more could have been said. The problem with "fast, reliable, and secure," according to Yankee Group Research Inc. analyst Zeus Kerravala, is that everybody else has already said it. (See Juniper EX Bits.)

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materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:48:18 PM
re: Feature Story: Juniper's Enterprise Vision Kriens insists that the next phase of switch competition will focus on the operating system. He implies that modular, modern, tested JUNOS will beat a zoo of IOS variants in terms of deploying new services. This theory makes the recent weakness in CSCO's US Enterprise switching revenue all the more important. Is this weakness due to new competition because IOS is old? Or, is this segment in secular decline, making JNPRs efforts a big waste of time?
lcw 12/5/2012 | 3:48:18 PM
re: Feature Story: Juniper's Enterprise Vision They're hoping the JUNOS angle resonates with cisco customers, but it's a bit hollow given that Juniper seems to have done little to integrate Perebit, Redline, and Netscreen into JUNOS.

If Juniper wants to grab cisco's switch market, they need to focus on:

(1) delivering on the EX's promised non-stop forwarding and in-service software upgrade features, neither of which the Cisco stackable fixed-config switches have. (Cisco switches take a 5-30 second hit if the stack master fails)

(2) ease of software licensing. Cisco's licensing has gone from honor system to complete insanity. The most recent: static route redistribution is no longer included in "base" software on their 3560/3750 switches. And don't even get started with cisco's procedure when you RMA an 'E' switch that has a feature license installed. If Juniper can keep their licensing simple and easy, they will have happy converts.

(3) feature parity. The EX does support cisco-isms like PVST+ and cross-chassis 802.3ad. But how they expect to sell a single switch in a Cisco IPT environment without CDP is beyond me.

(4) the data center. Ask client's why Cisco themselves don't recommend their 3560/3750 switches in the data center.

my 2c....
metroman 12/5/2012 | 3:48:17 PM
re: Feature Story: Juniper's Enterprise Vision I think that all router vendors need to look at the limitations of their OS. Both CSCO and Juniper included. They dare not make their control plane too expensive and they need the tight coupling between the hardware and the OS. This leaves them vulnerable to completely decoupled OS products that I think will gradually start to eat at their market.

If you can see your way to the return of the "route server", you might open the world to whole new set of possibilities and competitors. Router engineers will tell you that they have to limit the process overhead which will restrict functionality, reliability and scalability.

We already see the emergence of path computation tools that will interface with the router OS to offload complex, multi-domain MPLS optimisation and service assurance. Imagine an opensource environment with hundreds of tools with open APIs talking to highly reliable decoupled control planes talking to customer hardware through standardised abstraction layers. PBT may not be admired by all (include me in the naysayers) it points the way to lower cost hardware and contol of the network by the OS. The unfortunate limitation of PBT is PBB - you just as easily take RSVP-TE, IS-IS and LDP and put them on a server making VPLS do the same as PBT.

Another tought, if Cisco released a modular offline OS that could talk to existing cisco routers, now that would be a coup! keep the hardware - own the control.

materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:48:17 PM
re: Feature Story: Juniper's Enterprise Vision Which reminds me... What is all this about "open router OSs" all the sudden, like IOS can be opened at all. Is this reaction to Vyatta (sp?) or what?
lcw 12/5/2012 | 3:48:16 PM
re: Feature Story: Juniper's Enterprise Vision [quote]
if Cisco released a modular offline OS that could talk to existing cisco routers, now that would be a coup!

The new cisco ASR routers use IOS-SR, where the (modular) IOS image runs within a monolithic Linux process. E.g., you can have a standby image booted and ready for 50ms switchover when the primary image dies from a memory leak or exception. And, of course, the control and forwarding planes are fully de-coupled.

It's not exactly what you're talking about, but it shows that IOS could feasibly be separated from the forwarding engines by a gig link.
catalyst 12/5/2012 | 3:48:15 PM
re: Feature Story: Juniper's Enterprise Vision "....Enterprises are starting to demand carrier-class features, playing into Juniper's hands. "Juniper has a chance to be disruptive here," says Ray Mota, an analyst with Synergy Research Group Inc...."

One of the main feature a carrier-class box is High Availability. That is more achieved by adapting stand-by HW. I wonder how this can be achieved in enterprise pizza boxes.

metroman 12/5/2012 | 3:48:15 PM
re: Feature Story: Juniper's Enterprise Vision High availability needs to solve 2 big problems before it starts to worry about hardware:

1.Human Error
2.Software bugs

These account for >85% of failures. Standby hardware is nice to have, but if you have not solved these first you are building a spare wheel without having first made the engine reliable and robust.

OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:48:11 PM
re: Feature Story: Juniper's Enterprise Vision To manage those availability problems you need a complex control plane and protocols that manages the network pieces to minimize the failures effect.

lightreceding 12/5/2012 | 3:48:07 PM
re: Feature Story: Juniper's Enterprise Vision The story on Juniper opening up JUNOS is that they didn't have the resources to develop all of the features that were specific to an SP so they created an API to provide a way for an SP to develop their own features and then Marketing put a spin on it saying that they did it to make JUNOS open and Scott Kriens talks like a visionary about open OS being the future, but I think that the openness is limited in scope.
lightreceding 12/5/2012 | 3:48:06 PM
re: Feature Story: Juniper's Enterprise Vision Hitesh Sheth did not start the EX project and he was not running SLT. He stepped in and took over the EX just a few months ago after all of the work was done.

EX was started several years ago and shelved and then it was revived two years ago under the management of Paulette Altmaier, who was and ex Cisco GM who had managed part of the ISR line and had a switching background.

She ran the application networking BU at Juniper and had the DX, WX and EX. She build the team that built the EX. SLT was being run by Rob Sturgeon.

Last year Juniper reorged and Paulette was out and so was Rob and Hitesh became the defacto head of SLT since everyone else was gone. But Hitesh was under the supervision of Elop who really ran things.

The EX was put in the router group under Kim Perdikou, but then Hitesh arranged another reorg that put the EX in a new group under him while Mark Bauhaus came in and ran SLT.

Hitesh has no track record. The product he ran at Cisco was a no go. He is generally considered a non-op and political opportunist.
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