With its logo splashed five stories high across the New York Stock Exchange as it launched a sweeping set of new technologies, Juniper Networks last week also launched a full-frontal assault on Cisco for networking supremacy and for the hearts and wallets of CIOs.
Pushing the idea that IT organizations are confronted by rising networking costs even as the workload for networks is about to soar, Juniper is looking to position itself as offering not only a more forward-looking and more-powerful technology strategy but also a more-compelling set of capabilities via its recent and extensive partnerships with IBM and Dell.
While Cisco is expanding aggressively outside of the networking space and into mainstream computing via its Unified Computing System, Juniper believes that its sweeping set of new networking products and technologies—analyzed insightfully here late last week by my colleague Mike Fratto—plus the virtualization and data-center expertise it gains via its alliances with IBM and Dell give it the perfect opportunity to go head-on against Cisco the top spot in networking.
It's a risky bet. While it's possible that Cisco's ventures into storage and servers could diminish its focus on its core networking leadership and thereby create a gap for Juniper to exploit, it is equally possible that Cisco's new model—bundled and interlaced servers and storage and networking—will capture the fancy of CIOs and relegate Juniper and its network-centric approach to that of a very solid but very narrow point-product supplier.
And so it is that chief marketing officer Lauren Flaherty is leading Juniper's effort to articulate the power of her company's ability to drive business value via the new network technologies that make it easier for developers to and even customers to create applications running on the Junos operating system, and that transcend traditional networking infrastructure by cramming more power and speed into silicon and thereby allow Juniper to claim that it will be able to offer vastly greater performance for significantly lower costs.
"Lots of our customers and prospects have been telling us that 60% or even 70% of their networking expenses were tied up in op-ex (operating expense)," said Flaherty, who spent 26 years in marketing and business management at IBM before joing Nortel in 2006 and then Juniper this year. "We can cut that—dramatically."
Flaherty, in the midst of a 24-hour product-introduction event based at and around the facilities of new Juniper customer NYSE, said that 30 CIOs and CTOs of very large global companies told Juniper executives during the event that "they need more value out of their networks—they said they've hit a tipping point where the cost of running the network is exceeding the business value that's coming out of the network. And clearly that's unacceptable."
And that expensive imbalance, Flaherty said, is fully visible to the entire C-suite because the brutal global economy of the past 18 months has raised awareness among CEOs, CFOs, LOB heads of not only the critical nature of their global networks but also of their steadily rising costs.
"Then when you add in video and the prospect of so much more of it over the next year or two, plus the huge volumes of data from machine-to-machine exchanges as the world gets jammed full of intelligent sensors and devices, you can foresee an unprecedented growth in the demands being placed on the network," Flaherty said.
"So we decided to put a stake in the ground with a whole new approach with our "new network" that is totally open and offers massive simplicity."
Networking-industry analyst Zeus Karravalos offered this mixed review of the Juniper launch:
"Overall my biggest question for Juniper is how a mid sized company like Juniper competes long term in this ever evolving industry. The majority of Juniper’s competitive environment is huge multifaceted companies like Alcatel Lucent, Cisco, Huawei and others. These companies go to market with a unified wired, wireless and services solution and Juniper, at its size, can’t compete along those lines. The enterprise space has Cisco and HP as well as smaller organizations that are very deep in a certain area (like Brocade in the data center). Juniper again, falls somewhere in the middle. Juniper is too small and doesn’t have the right mindset to grow significantly through acquisition but it’s too big to be an acquisition candidate for all but a few companies, most of which have too much competitive overlap. So for now, the vision of what Juniper announced is fine, but all of us Juniper watchers will be looking to see how quickly they can get there."
As noted earlier in this column, that's certainly the top question: does Juniper have the impact and the clout to sway the thinking of initially dozens and then hundreds of CIOs who, faced with enhancing or even rebuilding their indispensable global networks, will need to know that their networking vendor is unshakably strong in its strategy, its product line, its operations, and its finances?
Enter the alliances with IBM and Dell. Here's Juniper executive vice-president Gerri Elliott on the Juniper-IBM alliance from a blog post she wrote a few months ago:
"IBM will brand and resell Juniper products as part of their overall data center networking portfolio. This OEM relationship is part of our joint strategic and long-term plan to bring Juniper's High-Performance Networking solutions to IBM's enterprise customers. We expect the first IBM branded Juniper products to ship in Q409. . . . IBM and Juniper share a common vision of the data center of the future. Our two companies have been working together in varying capacities to achieve this vision, including the Stratus Project—our initiative to create a single data center fabric that will deliver a quantum leap in scale, performance and simplicity. Additionally, we are researching cloud computing security models to mitigate attacks on corporate data and computer systems."
And here's an overview of what the Juniper-Dell partnership is expected to offer to CIOs, via Zacks Investment Research:
". . . the companies are also planning to work together on standards-based solutions for virtualized data centers . . . . Going forward, Dell will shoulder the responsibility of marketing, servicing and support of networking solutions from Juniper to business entities of different sizes like large enterprise, Small and Medium Businesses (SMB) and Public Sector Organization.
"We believe this joint networking solution from Dell and Juniper will provide significant challenge to Cisco Systems Inc. Some of the equipment from Juniper competes with the market leader Cisco but also with equipment offered by Brocade Communications Systems Inc. Diversification is clearly the key strategy, by which the large enterprises are growing their business portfolio across the globe. We believe that Dell and Juniper will form a great team to offer enhanced networking solutions to the end customer."
Will CIOs be willing to listen? Will they take a chance on the power and promise of Juniper's new technologies and its new and enhanced alliances with IBM and Dell? According to CMO Flaherty, Juniper is planning to do everything in its power to make that happen at the CIO level.
"We know we've had the hearts and minds of the network administrators, and we will continue to love them and meet their needs," Flaherty said. "But we also realize that these days, with the demands companies are placing on their networks, we need to hit higher up the organization as well with business-decision makers at the level of the CIO and the CEO and the CFO. We've got to position ourselves as a strategic player, and then deliver with the products that make that happen."
More choices, more focus, more partners, more competition—sounds like just what CIOs need across the entire IT landscape in 2010.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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