Juniper Versus Cisco: Programmable Switches Are the Next Battle

Executives at Juniper (NYSE:JNPR) outlined a plan to enter the software-defined network (SDN) market in January, marking yet another move in its battle against Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO). Now, Juniper is introducing programmable Ethernet switches that aim to put its competition on the defensive and strengthen its position in the industry.

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Juniper produces an ASIC called One (a part of the Trio line) and used this switch as a model for their EX9200 line. The innovation is in the engine, which can be programmed in a variety of ways. Juniper also calls these new switches “programmable” because support features will be delivered within the protocols, no matter how they evolve. The largest models in the EX9200 line will hold 14 line cards. It is still unclear what Juniper will charge for the largest switches in the series, though the base price is $80,000.

The news comes at a time when Cisco is experiencing a lull in its resurgence. Shares fell just over two percent by the close of trading Friday. Bad news for provider F5 Networks (NASDAQ:FFIV) made investors highly pessimistic about the industry as a whole, taking down Cisco in the process. A poor showing by Radware (NASDAQ:RDWR) also contributed to Cisco’s late-week slide.

Juniper, in the midst of a decline in stock prices, hopes to build momentum with its new set of switches that will ship late this spring. Other new products unveiled include the Virtual JunosV WLAN Controller and the Junos Space Network Director. These products, along with EX9200 switches, are targeted toward business “campus” networking customers, where it faces a strong challenge from Cisco.

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Investors have had a hard time getting behind Juniper, yet the number of hedge funds behind the company increased in the past six months. With more smart money getting on board, it could mean that smaller investors will follow suit. As for Cisco, the stock’s strong performance in March could be deflated even further if industry news continues to be disappointing. Until prices dip even further, investors would be better off waiting to pick up a stock that may have peaked for the time being.

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