Daily Archives: October 29, 2009

Juniper Takes Center Stage for Rebranding and Repositioning

For a day, Juniper took center stage in the networking firmament. The company preened and strutted while making a series of product, positioning, and partnership announcements that amounted to an old-fashioned, but somewhat new-media, promotional onslaught.

The announcements and related analyst briefings included a stop at the New York Stock Exchange — a recent customer of Juniper’s and the venue where Juniper stock now trades — which said a lot about the overall objective of the exercise.

Indeed, the location was apt, because what Juniper practically screamed from every one of its announcements was that a new day had dawned, not just for the “new network” Juniper claims it enables, but also for a company that had to redefine itself in the face of convergence and consolidation occurring in enterprise data centers and carrier networks.

In coming to the New York Exchange, Juniper wanted to get in front investors with a broad message about how the company presents a flexible, intelligent, and open alternative to the closed, proprietary systems offered by data-center behemoths Cisco and HP.

To get that message across, Juniper trotted out open, programmable capabilities in its flagship JUNOS software. It also announced new JUNOS chips and systems, including the JUNOS One line of processors and JUNOS Trio chipset with “3D Scaling,” a technology that has nothing to do with 3D visualization but reportedly provides dynamic support for additional subscribers, services, and bandwidth.

Juniper also unveiled new JUNOS-based cloud-networking and security products, including enhancements to Juniper’s SRX Services Gateway as well as modules, implementation guides, and best practices for building a “Cloud Ready Data Center.”

It also played up its partnerships, including the OEM deal with Dell and an expanded OEM relationship with IBM. An additional partner mentioned today was BLADE Network Technologies, which will develop JUNOS-based blade switches for data centers.

Then there were the branding elements. If you noticed that JUNOS got mentioned frequently in the all the hubbub, you probably will not be shocked to learn that the network operating system will get its own branding push as the software intelligence that makes the “new network” go. Look upon JUNOS as Juniper’s partner-friendly answer to Cisco’s IOS legacy. It will get prominent placement in discussions with customers and partners alike.

Juniper has a new logo, too. It features a rounded sans-serif font that is an upper-case approximation of the lettering used in the posters for “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Juniper no doubt has an odyssey in mind, but one more earthbound and revenue generating than Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic offering from 1968.

What I find interesting about what played out today is not only how Juniper is trying to positioning itself as an alternative to the data-center imperialism of Cisco and HP, but also how it is attempting to make a case to customers and partners that it is about more than interchangeable networking hardware.

With its JUNOS branding exercise, with all the new functionality it’s trying to bring to its software, Juniper is trying hard to make itself indispensable to IBM and Dell. As much as IBM wants to build software that will provide sweeping management and orchestration over data-center hardware, Juniper wants to make sure some of that software intelligence is complementary to or partly dependent upon JUNOS. If it succeeds, IBM — and Dell to a lesser extent — can’t just swap out networking partners and their boxes.

Watch the interplay between IBM and Juniper. They are partners, yes, but their strategic aspirations aren’t completely aligned. They will jockey for position in the data center, each one trying to impress upon customers how much value — and accompanying margin — it deserves.

Another interesting aspect to today’s fusillade of promotion is what it might tell us about Juniper’s future market orientation. The company still has gaps to fill in its product offerings for carriers and enterprises, but its partnerships — at least those on show recently — are steering it increasingly toward the enterprise.

Juniper can’t be all things to all people, which is why it has taken the partner-centric, extensible, and open approach with JUNOS. It can’t fight with Cisco and HP — and perhaps Oracle, contingent on what happens with the Sun acquisition — in delivering comprehensive, converged data-center solutions.

Instead, it has chosen to make a virtue of an inherent limitation — and it just might work. For now, it has IBM, Dell, and others in its camp, but it will have to walk a fine line to reach the dizzying heights to which it clearly aspires.

Depressing Thought of the Day: Facebook as Web’s Main River

At TechCrunch, MG Siegler makes the following observation:

Facebook wants every site on the web to be a tributary. And it wants to be the main river.

Really, has the web come to this? What a crushingly depressing thought. If all roads lead to Facebook, it’s time to get off the roads, build new ones, or explore some other frontier.

Bartz Rails at Ghost of Yang as Microsoft-Yahoo Deal Needs More Time

Microsoft and Yahoo struck a complex deal related to search and advertising. As such, I am not surprised that it hasn’t gotten done by the self-imposed deadline the companies set as the wrap-up date.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Yahoo said the two companies had mutually agreed to continue their negotiations beyond October 27 — yes, two days ago — the original target date for delivery of a definitive agreement.

Don’t read too much into the extension. The deal still looks to be going forward, but it is complicated, stretching over ten years and replete with potential antitrust minefields.

Said Yahoo:

“The parties are working diligently on finalizing the agreements, have made good progress to date, and have agreed to execute the agreements as expeditiously as possible.”

Explained Microsoft:

“Microsoft and Yahoo! are committed to this agreement and believe this is a highly competitive deal that is good for consumers, advertisers and publishers. We have made good progress in finalizing the definitive agreements. Given the complex nature of this transaction there remain some issues that need some additional clarity and definitive details. So, the teams at Yahoo! and Microsoft are continuing to work on the remaining details, and we have mutually agreed to extend the period to negotiate and execute the agreement. We plan to do this as expeditiously as possible. Both companies are optimistic that we will be able to close this deal by early 2010.”

Nothing to see here, folks, excepted lawyers and executives studying annotated copies of tentative agreements, with attendant clauses and subclauses, in boardrooms and at conference tables.

Something that we wish we didn’t have to witness, but continue to have flung into our line of sight like a bad reality show, is Carol Bartz’ inveterate and intemperate attacks on previous Yahoo regimes and on her favorite media punching bags. During her presentation to market analysts paying a visit to Yahoo, as noted by Kara Swisher at All Things Digital, Bartz’s target was the previous Yahoo administration.

I’ve written previously about how counterproductive and senseless such fulminations can be, especially when they’re being issued by a CEO. Sadly, the following comments, taken from an earlier post in this august forum, remain more relevant than ever:

Something else she (Bartz) needs to stop doing is blaming the past regime for the Yahoo problems she hasn’t imputed to the media. There’s no upside to continuing a jeremiad against a defunct regime. She should be looking forward, not backward. Jerry Yang and his lieutenants might have bequeathed problems to Bartz and her team, but that’s why they’re there – to solve those problems. The new team has been brought aboard to boldly and confidently chart a new course, not to endlessly bemoan the baggage they’ve inherited.

Besides being pointless, her excoriations of the past regime are culturally poisonous. In attacking Yang and the Yahoo of old, she implicitly assails those Yahoo managers and employees who were left behind and remain with the company. Rather than rallying the troops under all-encompassing banner, she risks instigating an us-against-them dynamic, whereby the new members of the company are arrayed against the holdovers.

I just don’t get it. Bartz gains nothing by ripping into the ghost of Jerry Yang. In fact, the entire backward-looking routine has gotten very old.

Bartz has been at Yahoo for a while now. She’s steering the ship, and whether it goes into an iceberg or a tropical paradise will be down to her and those in her chain of command. I’m sorry to have to return to an earlier admonition, but the blame game must end at Yahoo.