Cisco's Starent Buy Puts Juniper at a Crossroads

starent0Did Cisco snap up Starent on the eve of the telecom equipment provider announcing a partnership deal with Juniper Networks, Cisco’s rival in both switching equipment and telecommunications gear? Two analysts seem to think so, with Nikos Theodosopoulos, an analyst from UBS, writing that Cisco’s $2.9 billion deal to buy Starent hurts Juniper, which was expected to announce Starent as its wireless partner at an analyst day event Oct. 28-29. Jonathan Goldberg, an analyst at DB Equity Research, also said via email that the deal puts considerable hurt on Juniper, which now has to figure out a wireless strategy. He also anticipated a Starent-Juniper partnership announcement at the upcoming analyst day.

Juniper has not returned calls for comment, but the company is in a tough position as it attempts to keep costs in line, while investing R&D dollars into two very different markets. On the service provider side, it needs a wireless strategy that helps it transition carriers to a 4G infrastructure, something Starent would have done, and the reason analysts expected some kind of Juniper-Starent announcement in two weeks. It also needs to keep an eye on the data center market and the creation of a network fabric that will help it fend off Cisco’s unified computing systems and HP’s networking gear. We suggested last week that Brocade might be a good acquisition target, primarily because Juniper could then focus more on wireless R&D. However, with Cisco swooping in on the wireless side, Juniper has some serious decision-making ahead of it.

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