IBM will step back into networking in a big way in 2010 by buying Juniper Networks, according IDC. The New York Times “Bits” blog says IDC will unleash some of its year-end predictions for 2010 today. One of its bolder predictions appears to be the IBM-Juniper hookup.
Bits quotes IDC’s chief analyst Frank Gens:
Networking, Mr. Gens says, is increasingly part of the package of capabilities the largest technology companies must offer corporate clients. He points to Hewlett-Packard’s recent purchase of 3Com and Cisco’s partnership with EMC as evidence of the trend.
“If you are going to be in the hardware systems business,” Mr. Gens says, “you need network competence.”
This year IBM has stepped up its networking business, first with an announcement in April of a broad OEM agreement to sell IBM-branded Brocade Ethernet products. Then a few months later IBM announced an expansion of that deal with Brocade and added Juniper and Cisco switches to its OEM offerings.
In IDC’s prediction document (which you can download for free), IDC admits that the IBM-Juniper prediction is, in basketball terms a “3-point shot.” But IDC says this prediction is driven by the “growing importance of in the IT world – especially with the emergence of cloud computing and the explosion of mobile devices” which are driving the convergence and integration of the network with computing and storage systems.
A purchase of Juniper seems like a logical step for IBM, if it wants to buy its way back into the networking business whole-hog. Although Juniper is probably best known as a service provider equipment vendor, it has made big strides with its enterprise Ethernet switching and data center networking business over the last year or so. IBM would certainly see the Juniper acquisition primarily as an opportunity to add data center networking into its overall product portfolio.
A IBM-Juniper merger would open the door to a huge three-way data center war among IBM, Cisco and HP. All three would offer soup-to-nuts technology for the data center. Buyers of networking gear would suddenly have three monstrous companies to choose from and companies like Brocade, Force10 and Extreme would be bigger underdogs than ever before.