Juniper and 128 Technology: WAN big happy family?

While 2020 has been a struggle for many businesses, the SD-WAN market has continued to grow, and Juniper Networks aims to capitalize on that upward swing with its $450 million acquisition of startup 128 Technology in October.

More to come soon on how Juniper plans to integrate 128 into its overall WAN strategy, but first, a look at why there's no time like the present for Juniper to bolster its SD-WAN platform.

SD-WAN's upward trajectory

Roopa Honnachari, industry director for Frost & Sullivan, says while growth in the SD-WAN market wasn't as high as predicted pre-pandemic, the market is still on a positive trajectory.

"2020 has actually fared much better than what we predicted as soon as COVID hit or a few months after that," Honnachari explains in a recent podcast. "2019 was a stellar year – there were 100% growth rates from 2018-2019. The growth rates we predicted for 2020 and the next three years were pretty high. We had to recalculate and reassess what's going to happen because of COVID."

Honnachari says she downgraded her forecast significantly as a result of the pandemic but has heard from vendors and service providers that "they're pretty much on track as to what the original prediction was." Trends such as growth in cloud computing and the adoption of cloud services have provided a solid foundation for expansion in the SD-WAN market. While SD-WAN market growth may have dipped in some verticals such as hospitality and retail, Honnachari remains positive about the outlook for the market as a whole.

WAN big happy family?

Jeff Aaron, VP of enterprise marketing at Juniper Networks, recently spoke to Light Reading about how Juniper plans to bring 128 into the fold, and what is appealing about 128's approach to SD-WAN. Aaron says Juniper plans to integrate 128's session-aware routing technology with the Mist AI platform for the "next peg in Juniper's vision for the larger AI-driven enterprise."

"We're able to complement our existing SRX and SD-WAN portfolio with a solution that has much less overhead and bandwidth because it doesn't require tunnels, has lower latency and is easier to scale," says Aaron about 128's technology. "Most importantly, it has visibility into specific user experiences with their session-smart routing, which existing SD-WAN solutions just don't do because [128] has visibility to the application all the way down to the user level."

Will there be a fruitful union of Juniper and 128 Technology, or will it be as uncomfortable as Thanksgiving with in-laws during a pandemic in an election year? Time will tell.  (Source: krakenimages on Unsplash)
Will there be a fruitful union of Juniper and 128 Technology, or will it be as uncomfortable as Thanksgiving with in-laws during a pandemic in an election year? Time will tell.
(Source: krakenimages on Unsplash)

Sue Johnston Graham, president of 128 Technology, echoes Aaron's sentiment that the goal of bringing these companies together is to improve the user experience for SD-WAN services with a session-based routing approach mixed in with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

"We started the company with this premise that if the router understood sessions, we could deliver a really incredible user experience," says Johnston Graham, in a recent Light Reading podcast. "Juniper has a very congruent view. With Juniper's Mist technology, their focus on AI and the AI-driven enterprise, they're all about that individual user's experience and how can AI drive a better experience for that user?"

The ultimate goal, says Aaron, is to provide "one AI engine, one cloud, and one unified solution to get insight into the user's experience from the minute they get on the network, on wireless, across wired and the WAN."

With session-aware routing, Aaron says businesses will have more visibility into individual user experiences versus other SD-WAN suppliers that use a tunnel approach.

Once the process of bringing 128 into Juniper amps up next year, it will be clearer how this acquisition repositions Juniper in the WAN space, and whether this move can improve Juniper's service provider business, which has recently been struggling but did see 5% year-over-year growth in Q3.

Last month, Juniper reported net revenues of $1.1 billion for Q3. In addition, the routing segment for Juniper increased 6% that quarter due to diversification efforts as Juniper introduced software-centric testing and automation capabilities from its Netrounds acquisition, according to CEO Rami Rahim.

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— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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