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IBM Fires Juniper-Loaded Salvo at Cisco

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juniper-logoIBM (s IBM) said today it will resell switches and routers made by Juniper (s jnpr) under the IBM brand to compliment Big Blue’s server products aimed at data centers. The move is a direct response to Cisco’s (s csco) creation of its own brand of servers it calls the Unified Computing System, as well as efforts by Hewlett-Packard (s hpq) to bring that company’s ProCurve networking gear closer to its servers. They’re all part of a larger attempt to keep pushing the boundaries of virtualization beyond hardware and into the network itself.

Virtualizing the network, or creating a network fabric, is the next big trend in data centers. Once the servers are virtualized the hardware is separated from the software running on it. However, when the time comes for that software to access the network, it is once again tied down to physical infrastructure — limited by the the cables that attach the server to a switch or the storage network. That means the network becomes a bottleneck in highly virtualized environments. But in many cases, by adding software and some gear to virtualize the network, a data center operator can reduce manual intervention and cut costs while increasing performance. For more on this see my article over at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Today’s agreement deepens the partnership that Juniper has with IBM, and mimics relationships that Juniper has with certain carrier equipment makers to resell its products without the Juniper brand name. This is the first time, however, that the company has created such a relationship to get its products inside data centers. Juniper entered the data center market in 2005 with its purchase of NetScreen, and has since fought to take market share away from Cisco and HP.  With this deal Juniper has the potential to boost sales, as IBM will get Juniper’s networking gear in front of a lot of new customers.

But the future play here is around the shift in computing and data centers as vitualization turns servers, storage and computing into one big cloud.  Once Juniper rolls out its network fabric effort it calls Project Stratus to create a truly virtualized network, it will enable Big Blue to sell a complete package of gear for the new virtualized data centers. The two have already made significant headway, even though Project Startus isn’t fully built yet. Earlier this year the two companies showed off the ability to automatically move information from one data center to another one without experiencing a hitch. That type of automatic failover is going to be a big deal in creating resilient cloud computing operations. With this agreement both IBM and Juniper are responding to the threats posed by their largest competitors as computing moves to the cloud.

18 Responses to “IBM Fires Juniper-Loaded Salvo at Cisco”

  1. Interesting move by IBM. I personally thought they would buy another switching company rather than private label someone else’s. We recently wrote an article -> about Juniper and them being a viable threat to cisco in the enterprise switching and routing market. To me IBM understands that Juniper Networks with their portfolio of products combined with their Market Cap equals a company that can chip away at Cisco’s dominance in the enterprise switching and routing space. I don’t know if IBM knows how they will leverage this weapon yet but I am sure time will tell.

  2. les madras

    silly discussion. IBM is not a product company but an IT solutions company that will sell you anything you want.

    the typical sale at IBM looks like so: take over the IT operations of an entire organization. all existing IT employees of the organization will become IBM employees. total tab $1.2B for 3 years.

  3. Stacey:

    For a little balance, it might be useful to point out that IBM announced a number of agreements today ( ) including one with Cisco to support the N5K ( ). To put some perspective around this, I think the quote from Barry Rudolph in my blog post is on point “By working with market leaders like Cisco, IBM aims to provide choice and flexibility in providing … world class solutions and services for our customers.” IBM is not successful by advocating a specific brand of hardware, they are successful by delivering the best solution for their customers.


    While you can certainly support VMs using only VLANs and 802.1q, it is not a scalable solution, especially if you throw vMotion into the mix. When we talk about virtual networking, at least at Cisco, we mean a couple of specific things: 1) the ability to map network policy to specific VMs (not just VLAN, but things like QoS, ACLs, private VLAN mode) and have those policies move with VMs as they move amongst physical servers and 2) allow virtual machines to be managed like physical machines (same config commands, tools like Netflow, etc), again, at a VM-level.

    Because of the dynamic nature of virtualized environments, this should happen automatically (i.e. network automatically adapts to a moved VM), and, ideally, without disrupting existing operational process for either the server or the network team.

    Omar Sultan

  4. Ignore IBM and its ~$100B business at your own peril. It is a very different company than 20 years ago. Much non-essential technology and dead wood (some apparently still bitter) has been shed as the market landscape has changed and more focus applied to services. IBM, Google, and others are leading a cloud computing revolution which will transform how we all store and process data, e.g. abstraction of platforms across mobile/desktop and OS with data and applications residing in the network. Light years beyond early virtualization technology, this dramatically improves IT costs, backup hassles, mobile convenience, client obsolescence, etc.

  5. IBM is a dinosaur…… having worked for them 20 years ago, I keep alive by working for companies that innovate…… a partnership with Juniper is not innovation, it is an attempt at survival… perhaps too little too late???

  6. There’s some irony here in that IBM sold off (or dumped) its networking hardware division to Cisco in 1999. Perhaps whatever agreements they had have expired in the past year?

    Does Cisco still use IBM MicroElectronics as a fab for processors?

  7. I know virtualization is the buzzword of the day, but virtual networks, in the form of VLANs and the IEEE 802.1q standard have been around for over 10 years, and VMware supports them just fine. You can have multiple VMs connected to separate VLANs even when they use the same physical wire to connect to the network. All this talk of virtualized nerworking is just smoke and mirrors to get gullible enterprise customers to pay extra for unnecessary virtual firewalls and expensive options on switches.