Juniper wooes corporate customers

Business customers, get ready for Juniper 2.0 — more integrated network features and new support packages.

The company is making a big push to redefine itself as the provider of comprehensive, integrated enterprise infrastructure as opposed to a purveyor of disparate, independent enterprise gear.

The key to this reinvention is its EX switching line, a long-awaited addition that was announced earlier this year, backed up by automated support services to avoid problems when possible and resolve them quicker when they occur.

“We couldn’t go into an enterprise and talk about a solution because we only had point products,” but that has changed with the addition of the switches, says Mark Bauhaus, Juniper’s executive vice president and director of its service-layer technologies division since last fall. That division handles Juniper’s security, application acceleration, unified access control, and enterprise routing and EX switching lines.

Bauhaus is making a tour of press and analysts to underscore this shift in emphasis from individual products to “solutions” as a way to attract more enterprise business. He offers three examples that include ways EX switches can bring cooperation to previously independent Juniper gear in ways that reduce data-center hardware and latency, block threats automatically and extend Juniper NAC technology beyond security to deliver capabilities such as identity-based quality of service.

Juniper has a legitimate case to make defining its broad capabilities for corporate networks, says Phil Hochmuth, an analyst with the Yankee Group. “It’s a good starting point to get enterprises interested,” he says. “It gives an idea of what Juniper is cooking up and where they may be able to go. It’s certainly more interesting than saying this T-Series router is really fast or this NetScreen firewall has really high throughput.”

Bauhaus also is trying to address possible customer concerns about Juniper’s financial viability by pointing out its improving operating margins, portraying the US$2.8 billion company as a lean, scrappy newcomer that wants to double its size.

“We see ourselves as an underdog with something to prove,” he says, and characterizes the company as smaller and younger than the rival it most wants to succeed against for enterprise business, namely Cisco.

Customer concerns about Juniper’s longevity are preyed upon by Cisco, Hochmuth says. “That’s something they put in customers’ ears sometimes to sway decisions,” he says. “Nobody doubts the long-term viability of Cisco.”

Emphasis on the company’s efficiency and staying power may be the result of criticism from Wall Street firms about the company and demands they put on it to perform better. Despite consistent growth in revenues and profits, the company has pretty much tapped out the strategy it employed to achieve that growth, and it needs to rely now on expanding its enterprise business, say Ryan Hutchinson and Edward Parker in a report for Lazard Capital Markets.

Hutchinson and Parker refer to Juniper’s enterprise division as “barely profitable,” something that has to change. That leaves a huge burden on Bauhaus, who himself is an indication of Juniper’s desire to have its enterprise business accelerate growth. Last fall he was chosen for his pedigree running highly successful divisions of Sun, including its service-oriented architecture (SOA) software line to replace Juniper’s former enterprise division chief.

“I think this is the type of person Juniper needs to have if they want to get into campus wiring closets, places Juniper hasn’t been before,” Hochmuth says.

Bauhaus’ SOA experience goes hand in hand with Juniper’s model for rearchitecting data centers to give them faster response times among the various servers that might contribute to SOA applications. The Juniper model can also cut a layer of switches from data centers, meaning less hardware, less heat and less power consumption, the company says.

The architecture calls for dedicating redundant EX switches to each data-center rack to support access to the servers. These same switches are connected to each other across racks to create a single logical switch and virtual backplane across which servers can communicate.

This alternative to having the rack switches communicate upstream to an aggregation switch and perhaps core switches then back to the access switches atop another rack, removing a layer or two of switching that reduces latency, Juniper says.

The company is also touting a security architecture in which devices share incident data and automatically react to threats. For instance, a Juniper IDP intrusion-detection appliance that spots a device breaching security might trigger a change in firewall rules to isolate the threatening device, the company says.

Management software could also aggregate each instance of the threatening device’s malicious activity spotted across the network and present them as having a single root cause, reducing IT time to track it down, according to Juniper.

Cooperation among Juniper’s Unified Access Control gear — Juniper’s flavor of NAC — and EX switches could deliver better network performance to those who need it most. After associating a device with a user, their role and the access method being used (LAN, wireless, remote access), Juniper switches could enforce the appropriate QoS for that user as set in policies. This goes beyond traditional NAC that validates endpoints and monitors behavior.

Nikos Theodosopoulis of UBS Investment Research says if EX switches succeed, they could help the company reach sustained revenue increases of 20% or more. “However, at this early stage of product trials it is difficult to handicap the success rate of the EX-series line,” he says.

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