Businesses applaud Juniper's move
Calvin Choe, director of technical business development for the Enterprise Networking Group at Microsoft, highlighted the importance of Juniper's work to allow for tight integration between its infrastructure technologies and Microsoft's NAP (Network Access Protection) iteration of NAC, which will arrive next month with the introduction of the software giant's Windows Server 2008 software. NAP is also supported in Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system. "Used with NAP, this will allow network administrators to create policies around identity and assess users' state of compliance to enforce their own set of criteria," said Choe. "The support of standards is important because we wanted to make sure that customers had their choice of switching vendors."
In addition to partners, Juniper also hosted several customers on stage, all of whom mentioned the EX-Series' security features as one of the core strengths of the new product line. "Security is one of the most important things to us, and we wanted an extra layer of access control to deliver defense-in-depth," said Frank Ziegler vice president of communications for the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.
Some industry watchers said that the new EX-Series switches add a crucial piece that had been missing from Juniper's product portfolio from an integrated security standpoint. The new hardware should help the company differentiate from its rivals, including Cisco -- which has aggressively added to its own security holdings over the last several years, said David Willis, a communications market analyst for Gartner. "I think one of the more interesting elements of the launch is Juniper's work to integrate with third parties like Oracle; Cisco has announced similar intentions to do so, but it may take them years to get products ready -- and the size of Cisco's installed base may actually represent a problem in terms of getting products to market," said Willis. "With Cisco, it's also not unusual to run into customers who may have as many as 50 different versions of its OS on its devices, and from that standpoint, sometimes nothing beats a fresh start."
The analyst that just said how much of an advantage the new products could represent on the enterprise market will likely depend on how seriously customers view Juniper's efforts to truly embed security throughout its networking gear versus merely adding individual features.
Other experts said that the addition of the switches' security features could threaten providers of standalone devices, such as inline NAC appliance vendors like ConSentry and Autonomic Networks.
"Clearly the fact that Juniper hasn't had a switching product in this space has limited the reach of UAC, but with customers that have existing investments in Juniper firewalls and VPNs, this could be seen as good news," said Paul Roberts, analyst with The 451 Group. "There's always the question if anyone is really going to do a rip and replace to get NAC functionality, but for companies doing upgrades and looking for the features, this could be a viable option," he said. "In some ways, the new switches may give Juniper the ability to leapfrog Cisco, Extreme Networks, and other rivals with some of these features for access control and applications visibility."