Will users make the switch to Juniper?

The networking company has announced its entrance to the enterprise Ethernet switch market, and says now is the right time.

Juniper Networks on Tuesday announced it is adding a lineup of enterprise Ethernet switches to its portfolio, marking its first entry into this product segment.

It is targeting its EX-series, made up of three grades of switches, at medium to large enterprises comprising over 500 employees.

As a new entrant in the enterprise switch market, Juniper faces its largest challenge in the face of Cisco Systems. The latter holds the dominant market share at 71 percent, according to Yankee Group figures.

However, Juniper is not looking to overtake Cisco's place in the market. Instead, it is targeting to compete specifically against seven other switch vendors in this market segment.

Greg Bunt, Juniper's advanced technology business regional director, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview that Juniper is angling its new offerings by touting--in addition to other features--security.

Said Bunt: "In the market, you have one main player and seven smaller ones. [Cisco] is focused on an end-to-end solution, but that is not a best-of-breed one."

According to Bunt, the other smaller players compete by "adding value with services, and also in price". Juniper's value proposition is in offering network administrators finer control over user access and behavior, on top of a lower price point, he said.

"The challenge most have with security in their networks is that beyond providing access, there is very little knowledge about what people do once it's granted to them," he explained. "Security is typically designed as an overlay on top of the network, but now [security records have] got to be auditable and kept for many years."

On cost, Bunt said this is the "right time" for Juniper's entrance into the market because the commoditization of switches is driving prices down. He said the entry point for a company to acquire an enterprise-grade switch is now "much lower than it used to be" at the "US$3,000 to US$4,000 mark".

In the region, Juniper expects most traction in countries like India. According to IDC's market forecast for Ethernet switches in 2008, India's projected spend will amount to some US$554 million--larger than the entire Asean market, at US$506 million.

Bunt noted that enterprises in the region--the majority of which are made up of SMBs (small to medium-sized businesses)--are increasingly dependent on their networks, as these companies mature, because of the growing popularity of applications such as VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) and SaaS (software as a service).

"Generally, networks have been designed with the purpose of connecting devices together, with the device that talks the loudest getting to move its data fastest. You need to prioritize your data traffic, which is especially essential for VoIP," he said.

Analyst firm, AMI-Partners recently estimated SMBs in the Asia-Pacific region spent some US$50 billion on telecommunications in 2007, with IP telephony and wide area networks contributing significantly to that. AMI analyst Prasannavadan Gaitonde had encouraged vendors to consider price a bargaining chip in capturing the SMB market in the region, because of the tighter budgets of companies in this segment.

Juniper's EX 3200 and 4200 switches are available immediately, with a list price starting at US$4,000 and US$6,000, respectively. Its 8200 series is due for release in the fourth quarter of 2008.

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