Juniper talks about a more open future

Network differentiation will occur with software

Despite being attacked by both enterprise and small business networking vendors, Juniper Networks is confident its software will be a key differentiator amid a market full of commodity systems.

In Australia to visit customers and partners, Juniper's CEO, Scott Kriens, said the company's main strategy is to provide the "intelligence connecting everything" in a world made up of mobile devices and consumer electronics.

This network intelligence is required to go on top of being able to connect different things in the first place, Kriens said.

When asked about the competitive threat posed by commodity players like D-Link and Netgear moving up into the enterprise, Kriens is confident software is where "long-term sustainable differentiation" exists.

"History is not on the side of hardware companies looking to march into software," he said. Juniper develops its own operating system, dubbed JUNOS, based on open source BSD Unix, and has been putting it on commodity hardware to achieve better economies of scale.

"So we have the same value concept [as commodity systems], but on top there is battle-tested software that can run billions of transactions per day," Kriens said, adding APIs are being developed to make JUNOS a more "open" operating system and encourage extensions for it.

With about $US2.5 billion in sales and 5000 employees in 75 countries, Juniper celebrated its 10-year anniversary earlier this year.

Kriens has been with the company since a few months after it started in 1996.

Consumer and SME networking equipment may be a commodity, but Juniper still lays claim to having 25 of the top 25 global service providers on its books.

Even that market, however, is not sacred with the biggest of the big Cisco aggressively going after the carrier routing market with the much-hyped CRS-1.

To this, Kriens was coy about how it may affect Juniper's install base, only suggesting that Cisco's entrance more than validates the market as being alive and well.

Unlike Cisco, Juniper does not want to branch out into higher-level applications like desktop videoconferencing because there is a difference between building consumer electronics and networks as "you can't make one dependent on another".

"You won't see us trying to write software apps more than you will see Intel doing that because there are natural boundaries in those markets," Kriens said. "We will be careful because market forces are bigger than any manufacturer."

To address these markets, Juniper is partnering with other suppliers including Avaya, NEC, and Siemens.