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Juniper Buying BTI: Is That Enough?

Ray Le Maistre

For pretty much the whole of 2015 it was clear Juniper needed to shake off its recent past and transform itself in one way or another. For many, that transformation looked like it might come in the form of a takeover by a larger company such as Ericsson. (See M&A Speculation Swirls Around Juniper.)

But the Swedes looked the other way and jumped into bed with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), while another arch New IP rival, Alcatel-Lucent, found a new home and additional market muscle with Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), leaving Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) more than a little exposed. (See Cisco + Ericsson: From Soup to Nuts, Finn de Siècle for Alcatel-Lucent and AlcaLu Execs Lose Out as Nokia Unveils New Top Team.)

Juniper's initial response to the tie-up between Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Cisco (which actually only happened two months ago) has been to acquire BTI Systems Inc. , a metro packet-optical platform specialist that identified and capitalized on a growing transport architecture market, data center interconnect (DCI). (See Juniper Flies Into DCI With BTI Acquisition.)

Terms of the deal, which is set to close in the second quarter, have not yet been revealed: Juniper says "the terms are not considered to be material to our financials."

The purchase price, once revealed, will be interesting: BTI has raised almost $65 million since 2011 and more than $130 million since it was founded in 2000. Further details should be forthcoming when the deal closes, but whatever the price tag and associated impact on annual revenues, the acquisition certainly looks material to Juniper's portfolio.

Juniper, like its rivals, is aiming to deliver an integrated set of tools that will help communications service providers, data center operators and large enterprises develop networks and IT resources that will enable them to compete in a video-centric, cloud services world. Juniper has long been one of the leaders in the router and switch market and has been developing its position in the market for SDN and NFV capabilities: Once the BTI deal is closed it will also be able to add equipment designed to transport large volumes of traffic between data centers in an efficient and secure way and develop further a more integrated packet-optical proposition, so the acquisition makes sense from a strategy perspective. (See Juniper: Packet-Optical Convergence Driving BTI Acquisition.)

For more coverage of the strategic pressures and opportunities facing operators and vendors in the communications market, see our business transformation content channel here on Light Reading.

But is it enough? Not really. If Juniper is going to bulk up and make itself robust enough to withstand the competitive blast that "Ciscosson," NokAlu, Huawei and others are going to provide as network operators transform their networks and operations, it looks like it'll need to do something more.

But what? CEO Rami Rahim noted in the company's earnings conference call that the BTI acquisition should not be read as a signal that Juniper intends to build a large optical business. That could change, of course: MKM Partners analyst Mike Genovese, for example, believes that "Juniper could potentially do larger optical deals over the next several years."

More in line with Rahim's stated focus areas would be an acquisition that would bolster Juniper's security portfolio: Juniper's existing security business grew by 5% in 2015; it is expanding its product offerings in 2016 and sees real demand from its customers. "I know cyber security is top of mind for organizations of all sizes. Investing in security is an imperative for our customers and Juniper's strategy. We believe the future of security is intimately tied to the network and we are investing and innovating in our domain solutions with that direction in mind," he stated on the company's earnings call according to this transcript.

The CEO also sees significant opportunities in the white box market, so bolt-on acquisitions in the SDN and open operating system market shouldn't be ruled out, while video traffic management and unified communications could also be areas where Juniper could look to add muscle.

There are many options and various opportunities: I'd be amazed if we don't witness further Juniper deals in 2016.

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
1/28/2016 | 7:15:21 PM
Re: you need to add context to the question in the title
Exactly. Juniper needs to specialize, and DCI is a good place to focus. 
1/28/2016 | 12:35:03 PM
Re: you need to add context to the question in the title
Although they claim that they are not trying to create an optical business with BTI, a serious consideration for JNPR is to acquire someone in the optical space that has a strong optical product line. A company that comes to mind is INFN. That would immediately place them in new growth markets that would help increase sales.  
1/28/2016 | 12:12:29 PM
you need to add context to the question in the title

Is it enough for what?

Is it enough to make Juniper the size of Nokia?  No.  The question is that the destiny of Juniper.  There are going to be a small number of mega vendors and some specialist vendors.  Even now we probably have too many mega vendors.  So, the strategic question to Juniper is be acquired or become a specialist?  Well, they are the same answer.  The only effective way to be acquired is to be the king of something important.  Otherwise, in the long term you will lose.  For Alcatel-Lucent, that special thing was their IP division (who would have thought that TiMetra was the thing of value).  Being a mid-sized broad player is the slow boat to irrelevance.


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