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Juniper leans on wireless partners to battle Cisco, HP

Juniper Networks faces an uphill battle in tapping wireless partners to grab WLAN market share from Cisco and HP.

Juniper Networks Inc. has announced its second wireless LAN (WLAN) partner in three months, as the networking company tries to expand its reach in a multibillion-dollar market that counts rivals Cisco and HP as the leaders.

Juniper said last week it had entered into a "technology alliance" with Aerohive Networks Inc. The wireless partners plan to provide interoperable products that include Aerohive Wi-Fi access points (APs) and management software, as well as Juniper switches and gateways.

Specifically, the alliance covered Aerohive's 802.11ac APs and its cloud-based HiveManager software that lets customers manage, troubleshoot and analyze WLANs. Juniper will provide the wired infrastructure behind Aerohive's products, including the EX Series Ethernet Switches and the SRX Series Services Gateways firewall. For managing the switching infrastructure, joint customers would use Juniper's Junos Space Network Director.

Juniper's products are the same ones provided in the alliance announced in June with Ruckus Wireless Inc. Adding Aerohive further expands Juniper's potential footprint in the enterprise WLAN market, which is expected to grow globally from $5.3 billion this year to $7.8 billion in 2019, according to Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Conn.

Juniper announced both wireless partnerships after HP completed its $2.7 billion acquisition of Juniper Wi-Fi partner Aruba Networks in May. Juniper announced the Aruba partnership in June 2014, eight months before HP said it planned to buy Aruba.

Juniper has said it plans to hold on to its Aruba partnership, but industry observers expect Juniper to favor taking Ruckus or Aerohive into sales calls over rival HP.

Juniper strengths, weaknesses

Juniper needs partners to match the product lines of Cisco and HP, which are one-stop shops for wired and wireless technologies. But even with partners, there's no guarantee Juniper can grab market share.

At the end of March, Cisco accounted for nearly 48% of the global enterprise market for WLAN equipment, followed by Aruba at 14%, according to IDC, based in Framingham, Mass. HP's share at the time stood at almost 4%.

Juniper was listed as a "niche player" in Gartner's latest Magic Quadrant for the Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure. Cisco and HP were listed as market leaders.

Juniper's strengths include having a reputation for high-quality products, lowering prices to win deals and a standards-based portfolio, Gartner said. However, Juniper's shift from its own WLAN product family to a strategy focused on wirelesspartners is a potential weakness.

"While this approach allows Juniper customers to take advantage of technology shifts provided by new partners, it also introduces migration issues and potential long-term support concerns for some solutions," Gartner said.

In general, buying all products from one vendor, such as Cisco and HP, simplifies support, since there's only one supplier.

Companies considering Juniper should look closely at the level of integration between its products and its partners', Gartner said. How the products are tied together could make it difficult for a company to implement a single policy for access or authentication across products.

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