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Juniper grabs Mist for wireless AI, cloud service delivery technology

News Analysis
Mar 04, 20194 mins
Cloud ComputingMobileSmall and Medium Business

Juniper's $405M buy of Mist brings with it WiFi technology and a significant Cisco-pedigree

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Juniper has entered into an agreement to buy advanced wireless-gear-maker Mist Systems for $405 million. 

For Juniper the Mist buy could be significant as it currently depends on agreements with partners such as Aerohive and Aruba to deliver wireless, according to Gartner.  Mist, too, is a partner of and recently announced joint product development with VMware that integrates Mist WLAN technology and VMware’s VeloCloud-based NSX SD-WAN.

“Wireless was a hole that Juniper needed to plug to fill out its enterprise story,” said Ritesh Patel, wireless LAN analyst at Dell’Oro. “It also needs strong wireless technology  in order to effectively compete against other enterprise networking players such as Cisco, HP/Aruba, Extreme and other players such as Fortinet.”

Mist touts itself as having developed an artificial-intelligence-based wireless platform that makes wi-fi more predictable, reliable and measurable. Mist’s cloud-based system features an AI-driven virtual assistant called Marvis which brings patented dynamic packet capture and machine learning technology to automatically identify, adapt and fix network issues, Gartner wrote in a recent Magic Quadrant report. The Mist system is delivered and managed via cloud services.

“Mist’s AI-driven Wi-Fi provides guest access, network management, policy applications and a virtual network assistant as well as analytics, IoT segmentation, and behavioral analysis at scale,” Gartner stated.  “Mist offers a new and unique approach to high-accuracy location services through a cloud-based machine-learning engine that uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-based signals from its multielement directional-antenna access points. The same platform can be used for Real Time Location System (RTLS) usage scenarios, static or zonal applications, and engagement use cases like wayfinding and proximity notifications.”

Mist came out of stealth mode in 2016 and the company has significant Cisco lineage. It’s led by co-founder and CEO Sujai Hajela, whose jobs at Cisco included overseeing its multi-billion- dollar wireless-network business. Mist co-founder and CTO Bob Friday, along with co-founder and chairman Brett Galloway, also hail from Cisco. Galloway has since left for AttackIQ.   A Business Insider story said Hajela and Friday, when at Cisco were responsible for Cisco’s acquisition of wireless company Meraki for $1.2 billion in 2012.

Still, this is not Juniper’s first foray into the wireless realm. In 2008 it bought Trapeze, but Juniper/Trapeze Wireless LAN sales generated just under $50 million a year from 2011-2013, and then began to decline as Juniper shifted its focus to the data center and away from campus networking, according to the Dell’Oro Group.

“Multicloud will be multi-vendor and Mist’s commitment to an open framework for their AI-driven wireless solution is critical. It means Juniper customers can gracefully evolve from whatever legacy infrastructure might exist, leveraging whichever elements make sense for the enterprise,” Juniper CEO Rami Rahim wrote in a blog outlining the Mist deal. 

Rahim said the addition of Mist to Juniper’s portfolio will benefit customers in a number of ways, for example:

  • Customers that look to Juniper to build out their campus, branch and SD-WAN capabilities with both wired and wireless can get the full stack from Juniper. Notably, Mist is already integrated with Juniper’s management software.
  • The Mist acquisition brings immediate operational benefits to wireless customers. Over time, as Juniper integrates Mist’s AI engine, customers will see these benefits accrue through the entire software-defined enterprise.
  • In delivering a cloud-first, microservices architecture, Mist has the building blocks to accelerate customers’ adoption of AI-driven operations software. Importantly, their products and team will also help accelerate Juniper’s existing efforts in this area.

“Wi-Fi is increasingly becoming the primary access mechanism for most companies, yet it is harder than ever to operate and manage WLANs given the vast array of devices, operating systems and applications, Mist CEO Hajela wrote of the deal.  “The top WLAN vendors are dealing with platforms that are over a decade old, making it difficult – if not downright impossible – to leverage the latest cloud, AI and wireless technologies to meet modern mobile user needs.”

Mist is also unique in how it has delivered applications via cloud microservices and containerized models, Patel said. “That could be attractive to enterprise users looking to reduce wireless operational costs.”

The planned acquisition is expected to close in Juniper Networks’ fiscal second quarter.  According to Mist the company’s executives, engineers, support and brand will continue “fully intact under the Juniper umbrella.”