Juniper's 'New Network' VisionBy Lawrence Walsh | Posted 2010-06-02 Email Print
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Juniper Networks has made a compelling case for its “New Network” strategy, but there are still questions on how the networking company will execute on its vision and manage an increasingly diverse partner community.
Juniper calls its future—the future of its customers and partners—"The New Network." In bright, front-lit letters across the lawn of the Arizona Biltmore at last week’s Americas Partner Conference, the No. 2 infrastructure company spelled out these three words to signify the solidifying theme of its next generation.
Frankly, to hear CEO Kevin Johnson and other executives tell partners about the network as a platform comes as no surprise. Cisco Systems has been talking about the network as a platform concept for nearly five years. The logic is simple: Since data and applications must traverse the pipes of the data center, LAN and Internet, then it becomes the foundation for building everything else.
Juniper’s new twist on this concept is its pervasive operating system, Junos. An open system that’s adaptable for integration with other applications and infrastructure technologies, Junos is the foundation of "The New Network." Juniper touts its single code base as the means through which it can deliver easily managed and high-performance networks on-premises, in the virtualized world and through the cloud. As Johnson said in his keynote address, "The secret to innovation is a common language."
No longer content to play in the enterprise and carrier switches, Juniper is bringing all of its weapons to bear on growing revenues and market share at the expense of its chief rival, Cisco, and secondary competitors such as Brocade, Foundary and HP on the networking side and Check Point, McAfee and Fortinet on the security side. The utopian vision calls for beefing up field partner support resources, providing more technical support for partners so they can sell across the portfolio and adding application developers to the channel mix.
Yes, you read that last item correctly: application developers. "The New Network," as Juniper describes it, is flat. With the single code base provided by Junos and its sister applications—Junos Space for management and Junos Pulse for endpoint/client management—Juniper believes it can deliver a virtualized network in which numerous assets appear as one from a management perspective. From an operational perspective, the network will be optimized for high performance that gives enterprises greater levels of availability and reliability, and users a better experience. The vision and available technology Juniper presents makes a compelling value proposition for what the next-generation network should be.
For partners, "The New Network" opens many opportunities. As Andy Zupsic, Juniper’s senior vice president of Americas Enterprise Sales, told the gathered J-Partners, "We don’t want to just sell a router or switch. We want to sell a portfolio that adds value that drives the customer business." In other words, they want more attached sales and adjacency technology selling. For instance, Juniper noted that many of its pure-play security partners and integrators are realizing tremendous growth by expanding their focus to include networking equipment and application acceleration solutions.
It’s rather funny to hear a hardware company the likes of Juniper talk about the need to add application developers to its channel ranks. It’s even funnier to hear Juniper talk about the opportunities for its existing partners in developing applications built on the Junos foundation. Of course, I don’t mean funny in a negative sense, but rather how turning on a development community is easier said than done.
While more than one-half of Juniper’s employees are application developers and engaged in research and development, networking and infrastructure companies aren’t necessarily known for supporting application development. That job is typically relegated to the software community, which often sticks to open standards to maximize the potential market for their wares. Further, Juniper’s traditional partners are resellers and integrators; some have capabilities for customizing applications, but building a practice around application development will take investment that many don’t currently have resources to support.
Juniper’s executive team welcomed developers to its community with statements such as, "The network is open for innovation and is open for business." However, other Juniper executives privately acknowledged that the company needs to develop a new set of mechanisms and support for its ISV and application developers it wants to attract.
Further, there are growing questions about how Juniper will manage its increasingly diverse community of partners. Adding ISVs and application developers is one thing, but Juniper is showing an increasing reliance on telecom carriers, large service providers and its OEM alliance vendors for high-value revenue streams. That has some midlevel integrators questioning how Juniper will balance the needs and demands of large partners such as Verizon with the needs of comparatively smaller partners. Juniper’s stock answer is that partners should play to their strengths and market segments, but that language doesn’t sit well with everyone.
As the Enterprise Strategy Group’s Jon Olstik noted, Juniper is a company firmly rooted in its engineering legacy and rarely steps out to make visionary statements. I tend to agree with Olstik that "The New Network" is a tremendous vision with great potential. However, it is a vision that’s still unfolding, and several Juniper executives noted during their presentations and breakout discussions that much of the technology needed to fulfill the vision is still to come. No doubt Juniper will deliver on its promises. What will be interesting is how Juniper progresses in this journey and how it brings existing and future partners into the fold.
LAWRENCE M. WALSH is a vice president and market expert specializing in security and channels at Ziff Davis Enterprise. His blog, Secure Channel, follows security technologies, vendors and trends in the channel. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org; and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.