Juniper fills WiFi hole with Ruckus alliance


With HP buying its current WiFi partner Aruba, the router maker taps Ruckus to offer wired/wireless solution to enterprises

Juniper has been left out in the cold by recent M&A activity in the network infrastructure market, but it is going some way to compensate by forming an alliance with carrier WiFi leader Ruckus Wireless.

The deal is likely to replace Juniper’s current enterprise WiFi partnership with Aruba, which is being acquired by Hewlett-Packard, probably depriving the router vendor of an important ally in its war against Cisco. HP’s move has sparked several knock-on deals already, including Fortinet’s acquisition of Meru and a partnership between Aerohive and Aruba reseller Dell.

Juniper may have been hoping to be an acquisition target itself, for Ericsson, until the Swedish firm ruled out making a big purchase in order to counteract the planned merger of Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent. Ericsson was, of course, the acquirer of Ruckus’s arch-rival in carrier WiFi, BelAir Networks.

All these deals have left Juniper rather isolated, especially as the Nokia/ALU combination will not only strengthen a key competitor in routers, but presumably loosen the current cooperations between Nokia and Juniper.

But Ruckus is a good choice of partner to help Juniper stay relevant. It is seen as the most aggressive and innovative of the WiFi independents and, with its heavy focus on carrier WiFi (it is leading the charge to support Next Generation Hotspot, for instance), it will also offer Juniper a stepping stone into service provider WiFi.

The companies will work together to sell carrier-grade WiFi products to large and medium enterprises. Their offering will be built around Ruckus’s ZoneFlex access points and SmartZone WiFi management platform, plus Juniper’s EX Series Ethernet swtiches, plus tools and services in security, BYOD (bring your own device) provisioning and onboarding, and network management. These will be based on Juniper’s Open Converged Framework, to allow for integration with third party equipment and software.

The partners cited Gartner research predicting that enterprise WLAN spending will rise from $5.3bn this year to $7.8bn by 2019, worldwide.

Dan Rabinovitsj, Ruckus’s COO, said: “Juniper Networks provides the wired infrastructure critical for serving as the backbone for the Smart WiFi networks we deliver.” Jonathan Davidson, general manager for development and innovation at Juniper, added in the statement: “Building on Juniper’s Open Converged Framework, teaming with Ruckus ensures carrier-grade levels of scale and performance through our interoperable wired and wireless solutions to solve the WiFi capacity and coverage challenges that our enterprise customers face.”

Juniper has been moving away from creating its own wireless products inhouse in order to focus on its core switch and router business and the important migration to software-defined networking (SDN). Those priorities have made homegrown WiFi a distraction, especially as Juniper’s acquisition of WLAN access point maker Trapeze in 2010 did not yield the results it had hoped for. Last year, Juniper faced mounting investor pressure to cut costs and streamline its product lines amid weak financial results.

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Caroline has been analyzing and reporting in the hi-tech industries since 1986 and has a huge wealth of experience of technology trends and how they impact on business models. She started her career as a journalist, specializing in enterprise and carrier networks and in silicon technologies. She spent much of her journalistic career at VNU Business Publishing, then Europe’s largest producer of technology publications and information services . She was publishing director for the launch of VNU’s pan-European online content services, and then European editorial director. She then made the move from publishing into technology market analysis and consulting, and in 2002 co-founded Rethink Technology Research with Peter White. Rethink specializes in trends and business models for wireless, converged and quad play operators round the world and the technologies that support them. Caroline’s role is to head up the wireless side of the business, leading the creation of research, newsletters and consulting services focused on mobile platforms and operator models. In this role, she has become a highly recognized authority on 4G systems such as LTE and WiMAX, and a prolific speaker at industry events. Consulting and research clients come from major mobile operators, the wireless supply chain and financial institutions.