Cisco's Starent Buy Puts Juniper at a Crossroads

starent0Did Cisco (s csco) snap up Starent (s star) on the eve of the telecom equipment provider announcing a partnership deal with Juniper Networks (s jnpr), 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.