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.