What Juniper Networks` Entry into the Switch Market Means for the Channel

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2008-02-01
It's easy to see that Juniper Networks has been gunning for more channel partners and is hoping to use the channel to chip away at industry leader Cisco Systems' dominance in the market. After all, Juniper has introduced innovative channel and training programs, such as its "Fast Track Training and Certification" program that got engineers up to speed on the products rather quickly. Juniper has further enhanced the program by eliminating some prerequisites, such as the need for a certification from competitor Cisco.

The company's foray into Cisco territory doesn't end with new training and certification options. Juniper's launch of enterprise-class Ethernet switches adds yet another piece to the networking infrastructure puzzle. Perhaps those switches are the final piece needed to make Juniper a real contender in the enterprise networking realm.

From a technical standpoint, the EX 3200, 4200 and 8200 series offer all the features one would expect from carrier-class switches, but the big news is that those switches all run on Juniper's JUNOS operating system software, which should make the switches easier to manage and deploy at sites already using Juniper's other products.

From a solution provider's standpoint, having more choice is good. With Juniper entering the already crowed switching market populated by Cisco, Force10, HP and others, the company will have to demonstrate much more than price and ease of use to make its mark.

Are channel partners actually likely to switch to Juniper from Cisco? Click here to read more.

Solution providers need to look at the present as well as the future. For the present, Juniper is looking to recruit and train VARs on its products, and Juniper has made solid headway in integration of its products across platforms and brands.

What's more, with the reduced management overhead and the benefits of a single vendor solution, VARs could make serious headway into the growing midsize enterprise market. In short, Juniper is making it much easier for a VAR to expand its networking services and options.

For the future, the company's new switches show incredible promise when it comes to security, namely NAC (network access control). Juniper has pursued the NAC market with its UAC (Unified Access Control) product, but has had a tough time selling UAC, because UAC was limited to only Layer 2 restrictions. With the company's new switches, Layer 4 restrictions become a reality, allowing administrators to restrict users based upon their roles in a company, which can be defined by access control lists and user policies. Layer 2 restrictions were far less elegant, relying mostly on controlling access via VLAN (virtual LAN) assignments.

Add the enhancements to UAC to the company's evolving NetScreen-Security Manager software and solution providers will have a very powerful security offering, all just because Juniper has added switches to its portfolio.

Time will tell whether Juniper will score a success with its new products and various options, but one thing is certain, VARs owe it to themselves to take a look at what Juniper is attempting to do and then see if it could fit their business models, while creating new opportunities.