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Juniper guns for Cisco in branch offices

Network vendor lays out its new branch office strategy, as it digests four recent acquisitions
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

Juniper Networks has launched a strategy to integrate the products it acquired through a recent buying spree, in a bid to grab market share from Cisco.

Juniper has expanded rapidly over the last two-and-a-half years by purchasing four companies. As a result, it has acquired a rash of different products based on vastly differing operating systems.

These companies are NetScreen, the firewall company; Funk, which provides authentication software; and Peribit and RedLine, which both build application acceleration appliances.

"Customers have said, 'You've made all these acquisitions, what are you going to do next?'," said Juniper product marketing manager Trevor Dearing. "The success or failure of the next stage of [the company] growing up is how we take our technology and build it together."

Dearing said Juniper would embark on a three-stage strategy over the next 18 months which would enable it to compete successfully with Cisco head-on, particularly for contracts involving large numbers of branch offices.

Juniper's J-series will be its platform of choice for a branch office strategy on which all functionality from NetScreen, Funk, Peribit and RedLine will ultimately be integrated.

Cisco's own offering for branch offices is based on its integrated services router (ISR) series, which brings together routing, voice over IP and security features in one box.

"People ask me whether we are mad to take on Cisco in the router market," Dearing said. "But we have the number one position in backbone routers for service providers. To win, we need a better product and it needs to be cheaper."

Both Cisco's ISRs and Juniper's J-series routers offer theoretical gigabit throughput, but Dearing claims the ISR takes a bigger performance hit when the firewall and VPN is turned on.

Juniper's prices are somewhat cheaper, supplying an equivalent product for around 30 percent less.

The vendor is currently building the security functionality of its SSG appliances — the result of the Netscreen acquisition — into the J-series.

In the second phase of its strategy, due for completion by March 2007, it will integrate an IP telephony module from Avaya into the J-series.

That will allow Juniper to provide voice functionality to branch offices for the first time.

Finally, Juniper will migrate the so-called unified threat management (UTM) security from its firewalls into the J-series operating system.

Analysts were cautious over whether Juniper would be successful.

Asked whether the vendor would successfully take market share from Cisco, Andy Buss, an analyst with Canalys said, "I think it will be hard. But if it takes even a small amount of share, it can grow significantly," he said, referring to the vast difference in size between Cisco and Juniper.

Juniper will concentrate on two J-series routing platforms: the 4350 and the larger 6350.

The 6350 will sell for $10,500 (£5,500) and the 4350 for $6,500 (£3,400).

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