Juniper pushing Cisco on another plane: software ecosystem

Company looks to Microsoft, Apple, Google ISV models as a guide for market expansion

Juniper's taking the fight to Cisco on another front: the software partner ecosystem. It's another avenue for Juniper to drive home its single, open operating system message vs. Cisco's broadening base of OSes.

This week was software strategy week at Juniper's annual analyst conference. It was an immersion in Junos platforms and ecosystem acceleration techniques which gave props to the models of Microsoft, Apple's iPhone and Google's Android.

Indeed, it served as evidence that CEO Kevin Johnson's tenure at Microsoft is increasingly influencing company direction and emphasis. The Microsoftization of Juniper is at hand.

It begins with offering Junos as a three-legged development platform for network infrastructure, network control and visibility, and network access from a client device. It includes last February's launch of the $50 million Junos Investment Fund for seeding software development start-ups. And it is augmented by Juniper's own internal incubation lab which, while not Junos-focused, undoubtedly has Junos at its R&D core.

All are designed to catalyze software development and application breadth and variety on Junos and Juniper hardware - much like Microsoft has done by lining up 640,000 ISVs for Windows and Apple has done by stimulating development of 250,000 iPhone apps. Juniper claims this platform/ecosystem acceleration approach is a first for the networking industry.

It worked for PCs and smartphones, the client-side devices. Will it work deeper into the network? Or is it still a raw speeds-and-feeds game where the sheer volume of client devices and the applications that run on them, and the traffic they generate create the real demand for Juniper - and Cisco - routers and switches?

Maybe there's a reason why, as Juniper claims, there has not been a programmable platform/ecosystem approach in networking up to now.  

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