Taking on the Goliath

Suddenly, the well-lit ballroom at the New York Palace Hotel went relatively
dark and a hush descended upon the audience comprising media professionals and
analysts. A light hanging from the ceiling revealed a covered trolley that had
been rolled inside the hall. Junipers CEO Scott Kriens and CTO Pradeep Sindhu
moved toward the trolley and pulled off the cloth to reveal the surprise of the
eveninga range of high-performance Ethernet switches, the EX-seriesannouncing
that the switch was finally on. But honestly, no one seemed to be even a wee bit

For quite some time, people who have been tracking the industry have been
predicting that at some point in time Juniper would have to take the logical
next step. The company had proved its mettle in the hi-end router business,
where it had created a name for itself.

In the past, the company partnered with the likes of Ericsson, Lucent, and
Siemens AG to provide network solutions. Thus, in many ways, this is Junipers
first attempt to directly reach out to enterprises instead of service providers.
Yet, the big story lies in the fact that Juniper is finally putting its hat in
the switching ring, where it directly challenges the leader, Cisco.

It has taken over two years for the new line of switching products to be
developed, a bulk of it in India and the US. We made a very conscious decision
to build versus buy, said Hitesh Shah, executive VP and general manager,
Juniper. Meanwhile, Kriens emphasized that speed is the new currency (for

Yet, it is the very speed that many feel is the bane for Juniper. For
instance, Zeus Kerravala, senior vice president, Global Enterprise Research,
Yankee Group, feels that though the product launch by Juniper might be good when
compared to the existing technology, it does seem a tad late. It could easily
be termed as one of the worst kept secrets of the tech industry. Everyone seemed
to know that Juniper would eventually enter the switching market; it was just a
matter of time. I think, by releasing the Nexus high performance switches, Cisco
seems to have stolen the march, he says.

Speed is the new currency,

Scott Kriens, CEO, Juniper

Meanwhile, Ray Mota, chief strategist, Synergy Research Group, feels that the
real story is Junos. Juniper is trying to differentiate itself and hence is
repeatedly talking about its OS platform, Junos. The big story isnt switching,
but Juno, emphasizes Mota.

Taking the open architecture further, Juniper has decided to go in for
strategic partner companies, especially those who provide network management
software are now being allowed direct access to Junos through its software
developer kit (SDK). In fact, at its launch in the New York Palace Hotel, three
of the industrys software heavyweightsIBM, Oracle, and Microsoftseemed glad
to share the stage with Juniper.

After pumping in hundreds of millions of dollars developing the EX line of
enterprise switches, Juniper finally agrees that Cisco is a competition. Even
though Cisco was a major player in the router market, Juniper never directly
acknowledged the fact that it was competing with Cisco. But on that January
morning, when Kriens declared that the switch was on, there was open talk of how
the company would counter Cisco.

The big question everyone is asking is whether Juniper has the wherewithal to
openly challenge the networking giant in the switching business. It took only a
few years for Juniper to grab a third of Ciscos shares in the carrier routing
market. Will David be able to defeat Goliath again is a question that will be
answered over the next few quarters.

Shashwat DC
The author was hosted in New York

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