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Network World - SAN JOSE -- The Microsoft pedigree of senior executives at Juniper Networks has infused a new software centrism within the routing and switching company.
Juniper's analyst conference here this week was an immersion in software strategy as company executives laid out plans to stimulate innovation and growth through internal and third-party application development on its Junos operating system. The strategy includes an aggressive campaign to recruit external software writers to three Junos development platforms via investment, promises of mutual financial gain and other enticements.
Juniper is attempting to cultivate a following of software developers writing Junos applications for Juniper's routers, switches and security systems within a network; servers that control functions across the network; and client devices that access the network. In so doing, Juniper is emulating a model that's been successful for Microsoft – and also for Apple, Google and other tech companies – in enhancing the value and broadening the market appeal of its products through added functionality.
"What we aspire to do is create a software ecosystem that would be the equivalent of what Microsoft was in the computer world," said Juniper Founder and CTO Pradeep Sindhu, in an exclusive interview with Network World.
"Harnessing the power of third parties is very important," said Juniper CEO and former Microsoft executive Kevin Johnson. "We haven't seen it happen in networking – yet."
Johnson highlighted the ecosystem models of Microsoft – which has 640,000 software development partners – and the Apple iPhone, with 250,000 applications, as successful software development initiatives. The Juniper strategy was initiated by Johnson upon his arrival from Microsoft in 2008. Until then, Juniper emphasized its expertise in silicon and operating system software.
"This is almost entirely Kevin coming in," Sindhu said. "He recognized that [single operating system] dynamic. And it's easy to see why because of the place he came from."
Analysts note the parallels and believe it's by design.
"Juniper and Microsoft are converging on a common reality: software is what provides functionality," says Tom Nolle, president of consultancy CIMI Corp. "Juniper's hoping the influx of Microsoft people taught them something they didn't have before – people from a software culture who recognize marketing."
But Nolle says the Juniper strategy is not so much an emulation of the Microsoft model as it is a recognition that it – and an indirect sales channel – is necessary for grabbing a bigger piece of the enterprise market. Juniper's roots are deep in the service provider IP router core, but the company is pushing deeper into the enterprise with offerings such as its Virtual Chassis technology and forthcoming Project Stratus offerings.
"Getting into the enterprise is a fundamental change," Nolle says. "They could never cover it with a direct sales force" the way they could to the top 30 to 50 service providers around the world. "They could not be successful because they could not influence accounts. That required a commitment to the ecosystem."