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Gunning for top slot

Samer Shaar, Regional Director, Juniper Networks EnterpriseThough the current economic climate and flat IT budgets have had an adverse effect on the fortunes of networking gear vendors, Juniper seems to have emerged unscathed. The latest financial results from the company, which entered the LAN switching market in the first half of last year, suggest that Juniper is picking up momentum in the enterprise business.

Juniper’s EX LAN switching line accounted for $50 million in sales in the third quarter and is on a $200 million annual run rate. The MX series Ethernet router, deployed mostly in carrier networks but also in some enterprise data centers, is on a $400 million annual run rate. The MX debuted in 2006. The SRX firewall, which was unveiled a year ago, is on a $100 million annual run rate. Together, the EX, MX and SRX product lines accounted for $180 million of Juniper’s $634 million in product revenue in the quarter.

In general, Juniper sees the economy and its business improving, especially in the Middle East. “The market in the region has stabilised. Now, we are seeing our business and the market really picking up. We have hedged out bets on high performance networking and that has really paid off,” says Samer Shaar, Regional Director of Juniper Networks Enterprise.

Juniper’s growth in the region has been powered by some big wins in key verticals such as public sector, education and energy. “Public sector spending never slowed down and we have some major projects around e-government initiatives. Besides, we have a big focus on security, which hasn’t really been affected by the budget squeeze. Telcos have been another major contributor because most of the service providers are upgrading networks to offer value-added services,” says Shaar.

Juniper’s go to market strategy entirely hinges on its channel and global alliances such as the ones with IBM. “Our alliance with IBM has three focal areas. We have an OEM agreement, under which they resell our metro Ethernet and enterprise switching products. We are also collaborating with them around cloud computing and third area is around pure data centre infrastructure,” says Taj El –Khayat, Juniper’s channel head. Juniper has a similar OEM agreement with Dell that lets the latter offer Juniper products to data centre customers under its PowerConnect brand.

Shaar says though juniper is a late entrant into the overall networking market, the company has been able to establish credibility in the enterprise space. “We entered this market while it was going through a fundamental transformation. Network is no longer a part of your business. It is your business. Being available 24/7 is mandatory for most enterprises now. We have better credibility because our focus has been to provide highly resilient and scalable systems right from the beginning.”

He says Juniper has been able to make inroads and emerge as an alternative to Cisco because of its compelling value proposition. “We don’t compete on price. What we bring to the table is a much lower TCO. Besides we have a one single operating system across our systems, which is JUNOS. This means you need to get trained only once for any type of system. Moving forward, we are going to work closely with service providers and application providers to cater to small and medium sized businesses.”

While a big aspect of Cisco’s value chain is its army of certified engineers, Juniper says it's following suit. “It’s going to be our key objective for the next couple of years. Around four years back when we became active in the enterprise space, we had only one training provider in the region. Now, we have authorised training partners in each tier one country and two in Saudi. Our goal is to have at least one training centre in every country by 2010. We will also be tying up with universities to drive capacity building. Another initiative is our technology adoption programme for our customer base, which is to get them aligned to our new releases and give them first -hand experience of our technology. Juniper is also working closely with local governments to develop local skill sets,” says Khayat.

Juniper is also driving certification among its partner network. Khayat says the goal is to develop a very focused channel eco system and push away from overcrowded channel networks. “Our message is around high performance networking and that’s why we need highly certified professionals within our channel partner to cater to complex projects. Moving forward, we might even sub-contract our professional services to these entities, which warrants high levels of specialisation “

Juniper has stepped up its R&D spend this year. Shaar says the focus is more on collapsing layers and producing integrated systems. “Apart from bringing in next-generation network products, a great of focus is only reworking the architecture and bring carrier-class products to the enterprise market. Some verticals such as oil& gas need carrier-grade systems to run their mission critical applications.”

Data centre switching is another area of focus for Juniper. The company believes customer requirements for “centralized” computing architectures in which resources are physically housed in data centers and dispersed to remote locations through cloud computing and virtualization demand the “pure play high performance networking” that it espouses. Juniper claims it can lower network operations costs in the data center by 41%; and power consumption by 44% over incumbent systems.

Juniper has recently unveiled its Stratus Project, a multiyear effort to develop a converged data center fabric with server, storage and software partners. Stratus is a year old and comprised of six elements: a data center manager, storage, compute, Layer 4-7 switching, appliances and networking. Stratus is intended to be a flat, non-blocking, lossless fabric supporting tens of thousands of Gigabit Ethernet ports, an order of magnitude reduction in latency, no single point of failure, and with security tightly integrated and virtualized. Stratus is expected to support the Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) data center fabric specifications being defined and endorsed by several vendors.

Though Juniper doesn’t have a board product portfolio yet like some of its competitors, in times like this when companies are looking to not just costs, but rather find ways of improving efficiency and prioritising projects with faster returns on investment, Juniper with its TCO claims and JUNOS software that promises simplicity across a wide variety of network infrastructures might just find favour with savvy IT decision makers.

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