Juniper refocusing carrier efforts

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
28 Jan 2014

Juniper Networks is the latest technology company to come under intense pressure from investors to restructure its operations, cut costs and return more cash to share owners. As Juniper's activist shareholder, hedge fund Elliott Associates, calls on the networking provider to dump some underperforming activities such as switches, an acquisition made just before the holiday may give a clue to the Cisco challenger's future.

In December, Juniper paid $60 million for WANDL, a specialist in an increasingly critical technology area for carriers, network optimization. This will be one of the most strategic and rapidly growing operator software markets this year, and highlights how infrastructure vendors will need to refocus from delivering sheer horsepower in their equipment, towards adding more and more intelligence on top of that hardware.

Even before operators move significantly towards fully virtualized networks, the software content will be the key to differentiation. According to the latest report from Maravedis-Rethink's RAN Research Service – “The Network is Software: adapting to the new mobile economics 2013-2018” - software is increasingly the major element of a mobile operator's network budget. By 2018, cellcos will be spending three times more on SON alone - $13.4 billion - than on macro base stations, a dramatic reversal of the early 3G picture.

Juniper needs to continue to up its game in this area, as the software focus is just as evident in the core as in the RAN. Just as Nokia Solutions and Networks has drilled own on mobile broadband in order to streamline its efforts and reduce overheads, so Juniper could narrow its carrier platform and compete on the basis of evolving its routers for a software-driven world – rather than developing ever-larger switches in an increasingly thankless race with Cisco.

The company is proving to be a frontrunner in SDN and is very bullish about this sector and its products. It appears well positioned to generate actual revenues from carriers, as well as enterprises, from later this year. But the shorter term opportunities with operators lie in network intelligence, particularly segments like data optimization and location aware modelling.

The WANDL purchase will add multilayer optimization, network simulation, modeling and management software to its portfolio of products for service providers. Focused on the transport network, such tools will become increasingly important as operators move towards software defined networking.

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