As a string of Juniper Networks executives paraded across the stage at their annual partner conference in Las Vegas last month, the occasional name-dropping of "the big C" left little doubt -- despite assertions to the contrary -- who the network hardware vendor is targeting.
"We try not to overdo the Cisco piece," says Frank Vitagliano, Juniper's vice president of worldwide channels and U.S. enterprise operations. "The truth is, we are focused on other players. If you're looking for a strategic player that can go beyond one technology, we're a good choice."
Juniper continues to grow its revenue and share, maintaining its position as the second largest networking company and achieving the status of being the second largest security company -- both behind Cisco. The gulf between the two is tremendous, as is their future growth strategies.
Both companies have voice and video aspirations, but they are taking very different approaches. Cisco is rapidly building out its telepresence and unified communications vision, becoming as much of a software company as it is hardware. Standing in Cisco's way are companies that it has never competed with in a significant way: Microsoft, Avaya and Nortel.
Juniper, on the other hand, sees the world differently, where it's the facilitator of network-based applications and communications technologies, ensuring optimal performance, availability and reliability. With Cisco and other tertiary networking companies clearly in its growth path, Juniper is looking to other hardware and software vendors to supply solution providers with complementary technologies that become components in holistic systems.
"The market will end up somewhere between a chorus line of 20 products and all things to all people, because no one can satisfy all customer needs," says Juniper CEO Scott Kriens.
At the J-Partner Summit, Juniper unveiled a host of new channel initiatives: a better deal registration program, a new specialization for its access control and identity management products and services, a flexible financial rewards program for sales and expedited certification for its JUNOS operating system.
Program enhancements are designed to improve ease of doing business with Juniper. Philosophically, Juniper continues to push the concept of solution providers building systems with multiple components from a variety of vendors and leading with its brand -- a notion that is sometimes resisted by other major vendors.
Kriens likens the concept of solution providers tapping into a vendor ecosystem to the early days of the PC era, when IBM wanted to be all things to all customers. Eventually, he says, even Big Blue had to concede that it needed third parties to write applications to run on its machines.
The trick to growth, both for Juniper and its solution providers, says Kriens, is being open to partnerships and collaboration with peers and competitors. This is also a way around the thorny problem of not having the diverse product line of its chief rival.
"I hope Cisco's videoconferencing is successful and that they plug in many more Linksys routers and create more traffic because that will create more demand to attach more to the network," Kriens says. "There's far more need for mutual success."