Juniper jumps into switches

The company is launching it first range of enterprise Ethernet switches but doesn't intend to mount a challenge to market leader Cisco

Juniper Networks on Tuesday announced it is adding a lineup of enterprise Ethernet switches to its portfolio, marking its first foray 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 form of Cisco. 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 aiming 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 promoting its offerings by touting security, in addition to other features.

Bunt said: "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 behaviour, on top of a lower price tag, 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," Bunt 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 commoditisation 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".

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 $554m (£279m) — a larger figure than that for the entire Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) market, at $506m.

Bunt noted that, as they mature, enterprises in the region — the majority of which are SMEs — are becoming increasingly dependent on their networks, because of the growing popularity of applications such as VoIP and SaaS.

"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 prioritise your data traffic, which is especially essential for VoIP," Bunt said.

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