Juniper’s splash big on tech vision, short on specifics

Cisco rival Juniper Networks faces questions about FCoE, data center products

Juniper Networks' wide-ranging announcements on Thursday, billed by the company as the most significant since its founding in 1996, perhaps left more questions than answers after all the products, technologies and partnerships were unveiled.

Slideshow: The history of Juniper

Juniper rolled out a sweeping array of software, silicon and systems enhancements, as well as new and expanded partnerships intended to take the company and its customers into the next decade of networking. The Cisco rival even unveiled a new corporate logo, a symbol of the company's readiness to embark on a new decade.

The event was even staged on the 40th anniversary of the Internet's birth to signify its importance to Juniper, if not to the industry. And it was hosted by the New York Stock Exchange, Juniper's most recent showcase account.

Why the makeover?

"It puts a stake in the ground for our vision for the next decade," said Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson at the event. "We're driving to a platform view that's horizontal and open to integration: one platform with unlimited applications."

With that, Juniper unveiled its strategy for opening and licensing its JUNOS operating system to developers and partners. It also rolled out a new generation of processors, called Trio, designed to massively scale the edge of the service provider network. It also introduced new MX-series Ethernet edge routers with "3D" scaling of bandwidth, subscribers and services.

Slideshow: A short history of Juniper Networks

In addition, Juniper disclosed Project Falcon, an initiative to develop products for the mobile packet core and subscriber management of 4G networks, as well as "universal edge" applications integrating wireline and wireless networks. This served as an attempt to clarify Juniper's position in this market after losing partner Starent Networks to Cisco, which is buying the company for nearly $3 billion

Lastly, Juniper provided an update on its Stratus cloud computing project that included three steps to cloud-enable a data center: simplify the environment through a unified fabric managed as a single switch; sharing resources through virtual partitioning and VPLS; and securing the environment with security policies based on the new JUNOS Space platform and enhancements to Juniper's SRX Services Gateway.

Still, Juniper did not disclose deliverables for the Stratus or Falcon projects. And attendees were still clamoring for more meat from the event ,which seemed fixated on sweeping technology advances rather than specific solutions for key markets.

"There are no details on the data center side," said Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group. "How are they going to play in the converged data center? How do they address that aside from the loose IBM, Dell OEM deals? They need to put some meat on the bones."

One of the omissions from the prepared remarks was a FibreChannel over Ethernet (FCoE) strategy. FCoE is regarded as the quintessence of a unified data center fabric, yet there was nary a mention of it by Juniper officials.

"That's one of the things that's missing," Kerravala said. "They need to talk specifically on how to address that."

Andy Ingram, a vice president in Juniper's Fabric and Switching technology group, says an FCoE strategy will be forthcoming from Juniper. It will combine organic development with partner contributions. But he adds the economics of FCoE – its Converged Network Adapters cost twice as much as Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapters, which cost two to four times as much as Ethernet NICs – don't currently make sense.

Still, customers may want a more definitive roadmap, analysts say.

"The problem is … there are no [Juniper] products today to help the data center," says Cindy Borovick, a data center analyst at IDC. "But customers are making their investments now."

Borovick says Juniper's data center strategy right now is targeted at large content sites that deploy network-attached storage (NAS) rather than FibreChannel. She notex, though, that Juniper's exclusive agreement to license JUNOS to BLADE Network Technologies gives Juniper a blade switch strategy and provides another avenue for JUNOS to be embedded in data centers.

Juniper's broad brush stroke may be intended to avoid the perception that it is responding to trendy new markets with point products.

"They don't want to be perceived as going down rabbit holes," says Ron Westfall, research director at Current Analysis. "But one item not addressed is that Cisco outsells them despite the technological differentiation. How are they going to improve in the field sales?"

At least one high profile customer doesn't seem too worried about the specific gaps still to fill in Juniper's strategic direction.

"It's clear they aim to be a leading provider of network solutions, like we are [a leader] in our industry," says Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext. "This is about our business models converging, our partnership is just beginning. Juniper was the right company to work with."

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