One of the kingpins in Juniper’s financial future, according to the Street at least, is the success of its PTX strategy. PTX is an optical-core evolution that responds to network operator pressure for some way to build IP cores other than with humungous gigarouters. We noted at the time that we believed that the PTX could make a kind of natural partner with QFabric as a cloud strategy, but Juniper apparently never saw it that way, or didn’t position it.
The latest in the saga is that Juniper and NSN launching a new model for IP core networking called the Integrated Packet Transport Network. This is a combination of Juniper’s PTX and the Nokia Siemens Networks hiT 7300 high capacity optical packet transport platform, a product that seems outside the range of the new focus of NSN. Obviously that raises the question of whether Juniper might plan to buy NSN’s optical business (there are plenty of speculative buyers for various NSN business elements, though).
Juniper and NSN have had a partnership for years, and in some ways a tighter relationship between the two might be logical if NSN is indeed to shed the non-mobile elements of its product line. Juniper doesn’t have any compelling mobile strategy and so it would gain from that, perhaps. The reason we say “perhaps” is that such a partnership would inevitably surrender service-layer dominance to NSN, who has something there even if it’s primarily focused in the mobile space. If the service layer is the only place where real differentiation can occur, then does Juniper cede all differentiation to NSN?
The question may be all the more relevant for another pair of announcements from Juniper. Last week, recall, Dell announced its own data center architecture, built around its servers and Force10 acquisition. Given that our research has always shown that data center networks transition totally in sync with server/software architectures and their demands, this puts four companies (Cisco, Dell, HP, and IBM) with servers against Juniper in the data center, and Juniper doesn’t have servers. So Juniper announced that QFabric had won an independent network test of data center networking scale and performance, and that Juniper “delivers the new network” for Microsoft Lync (UC/UCC) servers.
It’s hard not to see this as a counter-move, and if that’s true then it’s kind of a weak one. We have as many independent tests in this industry in every space as we have vendors (does that suggest anything?), and each has a different outcome. Switches switch, so it doesn’t matter what the application is. As with NSN, this is more about a kind of marketing partnership. I don’t think Juniper is asserting it works only (or even better) with NSN optics or Microsoft UC, but rather that it’s making its support of both “partners” explicit to respond to market conditions. I’ve been critical of Juniper’s lack of high-level strategy and engagement in the past, and at the same time I’ve been impressed by their hardware technology. I hoped they’d get the former up to speed to complement the latter, but these moves suggest to me that they’re not going to do that, but rather position themselves inside the story of another. And if the story is about somebody huffing and puffing and blowing houses down, you really want the hero role for yourself.