Juniper's introduction this week of enterprise branch routers could offer users a strong alternative to Cisco.
At initial release the routers will run a version of the modular Junos operating system, which Juniper says is in demand from corporations looking for airtight transmission of IP telephony and video, and real-time business applications such as Oracle or SAP.
The market is ripe for Juniper's new J-Series routers, the 7-year-old company's first internally developed products specifically for corporations, according to analysts. That's because no one has been able to dent Cisco's dominant market share the way Juniper has in carrier routing.
"There's clearly an opportunity for somebody to step up and be the No. 2 vendor," says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at The Yankee Group.
One challenge, however, is that access routers are much more price sensitive than the high-ticket core routers Juniper sells.
"It's bad news for anybody whose business model isn't oriented toward providing low-cost commodity products," says Michael Kennedy, principal and co-founder of Network Strategy Partners. "To be successful, Juniper has to change its business model."
Juniper has this licked, according to Jim Dolce, executive vice president of worldwide field operations.
"The distribution channel that we've brought on with the acquisition of NetScreen is well suited for this product," he says, referring to the 400 resellers Juniper inherited from its $4 billion acquisition of security power NetScreen Technologies early this year.
Juniper is entering the low-end market as it is heating up. This segment recorded the largest sequential revenue increase of all router segments during the first quarter, according to Dell'Oro Group.
Sales this year are expected to rise 6% from 2003, reversing the trend of the previous three years, Dell'Oro notes. And even though they have not been able to affect Cisco, a number of vendors have entered the market over the past five quarters.
Now it's Juniper's turn with the J-Series. The routers have three models: the 2300, 4300 and 6300.
The 2300 is an 8M bit/sec device with two WAN ports. The 4300 is a 16M bit/sec router with six WAN ports; and the 6300 is a 90M bit/sec device also with six WAN ports. All have two Fast Ethernet ports and will be priced at less than $2,000, as are Cisco's.