Juniper At 17: Ups And Downs And In Betweens4:00 PM EST Mon. Jan. 14, 2013
Since its founding 17 years ago, Juniper Networks has seen plenty of highs and a handful of lows. To mark its progress, here are 17 events that brought the company to where it is now, including channel-specific moves.
It was a heady time: The Internet was quickly being embraced and a principal scientist at Xerox PARC, Pradeep Sindhu (pictured), decided it was time to start a company that would focus on high-performance routing to meet the demand. That company was Juniper Networks, which launched in February 1996 with a few hundred thousand dollars in startup money. Among other early employees was StrataCom's Scott Kriens, who would succeed Sindhu as CEO later that year and run Juniper for more than a decade.
Juniper went public in 1999 at a price per share of $34. At the time, it was one of the most successful IPOs in tech industry history -- one that included a first-day bump to nearly $99 per share. Juniper's price per share as of mid-January continued to hover around $20.
Juniper made its first acquisitions in 1999 and 2000, and the biggest acquisition through its first six years was 2002's $740 million buyout of Unisphere Networks, a roll-up company of various Boston-area network infrastructure equipment makers.
The defining acquisition in Juniper's relatively short history of M&A, however, remains the $4 billion Juniper paid for NetScreen in 2004 because it thrust Juniper into highly competitive security markets such as firewall, VPN and intrusion detection and prevention. The list of NetScreen alumni still active in the industry is a long one; ex-NetScreeners Ken Xie (pictured) and Nir Zuk, for example, founded hotshot security companies Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks, respectively, that now compete with Juniper.
With the hirings of Tushar Kothari (pictured) as vice president of worldwide channels and Bob Bruce as vice president of Americas channels, Juniper put a stake in the ground for its then-burgeoning channel program and signaled to solution providers that it was serious about building a channel.
Only weeks earlier, it had launched the J-Partner program, which was designed to help on-board the hundreds of partners Juniper had gained from the NetScreen pickup.
Juniper in April 2005 paid about $469 million for Peribit Networks and Redline Networks -- deals that today are remembered less for the exact nature of what Juniper was buying than as examples of Juniper's spotty M&A history.
Peribit brought Juniper WAN optimization appliances and Redline brought it application acceleration technology, neither of which had much success for Juniper in the ensuing years. Time will tell whether later Juniper tuck-in acquisitions such as Trapeze Networks (WLAN) and Altor (virtualizion security) will have better fates.
It was one of the more interesting channel chief moves of the past decade: Frank Vitagliano, a channel legend known for his in-the-trenches support of partners during 33 years spent at IBM, left Big Blue and turned up as Kothari's successor at Juniper, where he's remained for nearly seven years. In 2010, Vitagliano shifted to an Americas-facing channel role, yielding the worldwide channel chief job that later went to Emilio Umeoka.
By the time Juniper confirmed it was entering the Ethernet switching space with its EX series, it was the worst-kept secret in the networking industry. Although Juniper's share of the Layer 2/Layer 3 switching market -- about 3 percent according to research firm IDC -- is still quite small in the kingdom of Cisco, it's gained enough year over year to have convinced initially skeptical Juniper partners that it was the right move.
Kevin Johnson became the third CEO of Juniper in 2008, following a 16-year stretch at Microsoft that concluded as president of Microsoft's Platform & Services Division. Johnson's tenure atop Juniper thus far has had as many challenges as triumphs -- the global recession kicked in shortly after the succession -- and Juniper's executive team has also changed dramatically, with the majority of the current team having started in 2007 or later.
It was a splashy campaign designed to give Juniper the marketing muscle that it had lacked in prior years. Marking the occasion, Juniper held a blowout press and analyst event at the New York Stock Exchange and made across-the-board updates to its chipsets, routers and software platforms. Partners lauded the "New Network" campaign for helping give them the marketing air cover Juniper needed.
At one point in its earlier channel days, Juniper had finished dead last in the category of enterprise networking infrastructure in CRN's Annual Report Card. But in 2010, Juniper scored a major victory, taking top honors in the category and dethroning perennial victor Cisco for the first time. It took a few steps back in the 2012 ARC, but Juniper's 2010 laurels cemented its enterprise networking channel legitimacy that much more.
Juniper's SRX series dynamic services gateways debuted in 2008, touted as strong alternatives to traditional firewalls due to better throughput and a range of more advanced features such as DDoS protection and network address translation. By mid-2010 however, SRX customers were up in arms over technical issues with the products, including complaints about their overall stability and specific flaws in areas such as unified threat management (UTM). By the time Juniper executives apologized to partners from the stage at the 2012 Juniper global partner conference, solution providers said that Juniper's initial response over the previous year had been too slow.
February 2011 was a big, big month for marquee Juniper product launches, the first of which was MobileNext, Juniper's long-awaited mobile packet core that had been under development as Project Falcon. MobileNext offers 2G/3G and LTE evolved packet core functions using various gateways and policy management platforms, but the product has never really taken off, leaving plenty of questions as to how Juniper will profit from carriers' rush to invest in LTE network infrastructure.
QFabric, which spent years under development as Project Stratus, was supposed to be Juniper's game-changer: a data center fabric meant to collapse traditionally three-layer data center architecture into a single, flat management plane and offer speeds 10 times as fast as comparable systems while requiring 77 percent less power, 27 percent fewer networking devices and occupying 90 percent less physical space. Nearly two years later, QFabric's ramp has been slow, though its defenders point to a longer, more involved sales cycle with customers that will eventually mean bigger returns for patient solution providers.
Will Mykonos, and its "intrusion deception systems," be remembered a revitalizing acquisition for Juniper's security business or just one more tuck-in buy that didn't quite advance the ball the way Juniper intended?
Less than a year since the move, it's too early to tell.
With so much of Juniper's revenue -- nearly two-thirds -- tied to service provider spending, the sluggish core routing spend in that market over the past two years has made it tough for Juniper to keep momentum steady.
One of Juniper's more invigorating service provider-side product launches, however, is the PTX supercore -- a packet transport switch intended to help simplify network operations, make the network more scalable and keep costs at bay when paired with Juniper's T-series core routers. First introduced in 2011, Juniper's PTX5000 switches began shipping in March 2012 -- what Juniper described as a "three-year-long effort to research, design, build test and launch the innovative founding of Juniper's Converged Supercore architecture."
Juniper quietly laid off a few hundred employees in fall 2011, but because of how the story leaked and then spread widely, it was far more transparent about its headcount-cutting plans a year later. Juniper's October 2012 layoff, which included about 500 jobs, was in line with a corporate restructuring meant to remove $150 million in operating expenses -- part of a frustrating 2012 for Juniper overall.
A seemingly modest acquisition -- $176 million in cash and stock -- that may have big implications for Juniper's future. When Juniper bought it, Contrail Systems had emerged from stealth mode only days earlier, but it was already among the quickly crowding field of software-defined networking (SDN) startups with good buzz.
Just how Juniper plans to to integrate Contrail and advance its own thus-far-loosely-defined SDN strategy is expected to come out at Juniper's Global Partner Conference. Juniper was previously a strategic investor in Contrail, whose management team includes CTO Kireeti Kompella, Juniper's former CTO and chief architect for Junos.