Like a lot of other people, I remember the Juniper ads of decades ago that used cartoons to poke fun at competitors. It was in-your-face marketing, and it seemed to pay off for Juniper in visibility.\nThen they got quiet, and while Juniper continued to innovate at the product level, they didn\u2019t make news like they used to. Then they held their Nov. 2 analyst event, and they got in their competitors\u2019 faces again. Why, and how?\nThe why is related to a principle of marketing I\u2019ve talked about for decades: trajectory management. All sales processes these days aim at converting \u201csuspects\u201d into \u201ccustomers\u201d through a series of steps. First you get mentioned in tech news articles and analyst briefs. Second, those who see those mentions go to your website for more information, which leads them to the third step\u2014a request to talk to a salesperson. In-your-face marketing gets good ink, and Juniper got more coverage of its event than it\u2019s gotten for anything else in years.\n\nIn the keynote to the event, Juniper CEO Rami Rahim didn\u2019t just place Juniper ahead of their competition, he put the competition in a different universe. It\u2019s not just a matter of taking a different slant on customer needs, but that competitors don\u2019t even see the same things Juniper sees, literally and figuratively. Juniper believes in \u201cprecious data\u201d, the telemetry that operations processes receive from the network. Juniper has announced that every Juniper device will contribute to that, and that the resulting cloud-native repository will then be processed by AI to completely reshape network operations.\nCalling it Experience-First networking, Juniper contends that it\u2019s the only player to offer it. Other speakers through the process went even further, challenging competitors on AI and openness to highlight Juniper\u2019s data-centric vision. From a company that\u2019s usually so buttoned-down and low key, it was a refreshing return to the days of those cartoons.\nExperience-first, intelligence, and openness all relate to operations. We\u2019re seeing exploding network complexity, which nobody who reads this is likely to doubt. There\u2019s a lot more in today\u2019s network\u2014devices and features\u2014and we expect networks to do a lot more. Operations demands have grown and so have costs, and the spending seems to add layers of stuff rather than build into a cohesive model. For all of that spending, we still have a hard time relating user experiences to network behavior, and Juniper offered two proof points that it could do better. First, specific sales data from the last quarter on their success with the elements of Juniper\u2019s Experience-First story, and second, offering what was, for me, the first really well-organized articulation of that story at the product and feature level.\nThe sales successes focused on two things\u2014artificial intelligence and Session Smart Routing (SSR). Juniper got much of its technology in both areas through acquisitions, and they\u2019ve had major wins in both areas in their most recent quarter. It\u2019s a good indication that the pieces of the Experience First story resonate, and a reason to make the whole story a technical reality that spans all of Juniper\u2019s products. Juniper defines three technology pillars to its Experience-First strategy:\u00a0 automated WAN, cloud-ready data center, and AI-driven enterprise. What unifies them is AI-driven operations, and that precious data.\nIn the data center, companies often have a mixture of vendors and technologies. Juniper\u2019s Apstra acquisition brings a completely open operations model designed to take experiences\u2019 requirements at the top and use them as a template to drive intent-based operations, even if the gear isn\u2019t Juniper\u2019s. By defining data-center operations from the top down, based on templates, enterprises can create an operations model and apply it to all their data centers, standardizing network operations at the data center-level.\nSSR, which Juniper acquired with its purchase of 128 Technology, redefines the user edge. SSR knows individual users and applications, and knows what relationships are allowed between the two and what business priority they should be given. This is what makes the \u201cexperience\u201d piece of Juniper\u2019s story real; by knowing relationships rather than just traffic, you can address impacts on business and not just network conditions.\nThe pieces of Experience First aren\u2019t new, it\u2019s the integration, the unity, that\u2019s new and different. Gather more network data and you can understand more about the network. If the data includes session information that links to experiences, you can understand how your network is supporting your workers, your business. The combination of data, AI, and session awareness lets an enterprise manage upward from devices or downward from experiences, and, whichever direction is taken, get to the same comprehensive set of data points and insights. With the conversational capability of Marvis that they announced\u2014Marvis is the natural-language-based engine at the core of multiple Juniper services\u2014you can even get smartphone-virtual-assistant-like advice.\nYou can probably see why combining AI across all Juniper elements and capturing experience-awareness make a powerful combination, and Juniper is right to say that it\u2019s unique. Remember my blog on the application of AI to networks? Juniper hit the technical requirements I cited. That means they meet the technology test of their aggressive story, and they certainly got favorable publicity from the event. What, then, is creating the risk I noted earlier?\nIt\u2019s that pesky marketing principle trajectory management that we started with. Remember the themes of unity, cohesion, intelligence, and openness? You can dig those key pieces out of Juniper\u2019s website, but you don\u2019t easily find the cohesive story that came out of its analyst event. Yes, the event worked to drive editorial mention, and perhaps that focus is why Juniper didn\u2019t place its content prominently on their homepage. But when somebody is induced to visit your website by a report on an event, wouldn\u2019t it make sense to have some reference to the thing that likely drove the visit be the first thing a visitor sees?\nThere\u2019s another dimension to network complexity to think about here, for Juniper and everyone else. While salespeople and vendors may think of \u201csales\u201d as being focused on specific products, the network isn\u2019t a single product, it\u2019s a cooperative ecosystem of stuff that has to be purchased as an ecosystem just as much as operated as an ecosystem.\u00a0 If you want your strategy to unify, you have to sell it as a unit, which means your website had better be themed on unity.\nThere\u2019s good competitive news for Juniper, though. There\u2019s a long lag in getting actual technology market-ready, and marketing and positioning are nearly zero-inertia. They can learn to sing and dance with their new theme a lot faster than competitors can build or buy comparable technologies. If Juniper\u2019s new in-your-face marketing is matched with trajectory-management positioning, then they are going to give both enterprises looking for a new network operations strategy, and competitors who also want to deliver one, a lot to think about.\n(Disclaimer: Juniper Networks is a past and present client of CIMI Corporation, but the views expressed here are my own.