Is Juniper out shopping?

Ever since Cisco acquired wireless LAN switch maker Airespace three weeks ago, speculation has swirled about how router rival Juniper might respond.

Ever since Cisco acquired wireless LAN switch maker Airespace three weeks ago, speculation has swirled about how router rival Juniper might respond.

It's no secret that Juniper, which until its acquisition of security vendor NetScreen Technologies last year focused exclusively on the service provider market, is looking to raise its profile in enterprise networking. Juniper also is shipping a new line of access routers developed for enterprise networks.

Analysts expect Juniper to acquire companies this year to deepen its reach into the enterprise market - specifically in hot segments such as VoIP and WLANs. Of those, the urgency to enter the WLAN market was heightened after Cisco's $450 million acquisition of Airespace. Even if Cisco did not acquire Airespace, any company with enterprise aspirations would need a wireless offering, analysts say.

"Wireless is going to become the default network connection for most enterprise users, for both voice and data," says Craig Mathias, a consultant at Farpoint Group. "So an enterprise networking firm without a strong solution in wireless isn't going to be a strong [one]."

So who is Juniper looking at? Published speculation has the company eyeing WLAN switch makers Aruba Wireless Networks and Trapeze Networks.

Curiously, this speculation did not mention Colubris Networks, a maker of 802.11a/b/g access points, gateways and controllers for corporations and service providers that has a two-year-old joint development arrangement with Juniper. Through this arrangement, Colubris is Juniper's WLAN offering - Juniper sales and engineering personnel have received Colubris product training; and Juniper's Web site contains sales and marketing literature on a joint Colubris/NetScreen product.

"Colubris is probably the most logical acquisition target, partially because Colubris has done very well on the public network space - which is a place where Juniper obviously excels - and then they also do fairly well in the enterprise," says Abner Germanow, an analyst at IDC. "There are probably quite a few [enterprise accounts] that have Colubris and have NetScreen" products.

One of them could be McDonald's Canada, which - according to a customer profile on the Juniper Web site - uses NetScreen firewall and IPSec VPN systems to secure its central ordering, e-mail and credit/debit systems. McDonald's Canada is also looking to secure a wireless hot spot network it deployed for its upper echelon McCafe customers, according to the profile.

McDonald's Canada declined requests to interview Gene Genin, vice president of IT at the fast food giant, for this story.

Juniper and Colubris declined to comment on a possible marriage. Aruba also declined to comment on the published speculation that it was a possible acquisition target of Juniper's.

Trapeze, which already has a relationship with 3Com, says it's being approached by a number of vendors.

"We're talking to a lot of different people but unfortunately, it's all under [non-disclosure agreement]," says Bruce Van Nice, Trapeze vice president of worldwide marketing. "There's a new sense of urgency" among these vendors since Cisco's acquisition of Airespace, he says.

Trapeze and Aruba have broader WLAN switch offerings than Colubris, while Colubris has the more sophisticated access point technology, analysts say. Thus, Juniper could purchase two WLAN companies for their respective strengths.

"You could actually acquire both companies and have a focus on carrier hot spots, enterprise" and other applications, such as mobile access routers for airlines, says Joel Conover, an analyst at Current Analysis.

Another possible candidate to fill out Juniper's switching side is Extreme Networks, which makes both LAN and WLAN switches. Speculation on a Juniper/Extreme union surfaces every now and then.

But until Juniper makes its move, it continues to jointly develop and market an enterprise secure wireless offering with Colubris. The integration of Colubris WLAN access devices with Juniper's NetScreen firewall/VPN appliances is designed to let companies segment traffic, and apply a range of network and application security policies, based on user authentication, application type and network destination.

For public WLAN services, Juniper and Colubris combine the Colubris CN3000 access devices with Juniper's E-Series broadband edge routers and SDX-300 Service Deployment System to let service providers handle access point management, user authentication and access control from a central location.

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