Cisco held its investor meeting yesterday, and the Street view of the event was considerably more favorable than its view of rival Juniper. Analysts appear to agree when Cisco’s Chambers says that Juniper is “vulnerable”. My readers know that I wrote about this Cisco view some time back. Cisco says this is because Juniper is spread too thin between service provider and enterprise. Along the way, Chambers indicated that Cisco would be taking an edgier position against HP and acknowledged that Huawei is a strong competitor.
So what’s really going on here? Is Cisco going to give us the networking equivalent of the negative ad campaign, and if so, why? Negative ads are designed not to influence voters but to disgust them, to keep the dangerous unaligned out of the polling places so your party hacks matter more. Keeping the buyer out of the market is exactly what Cisco is risking here. And why take that risk? It could be because Cisco is hoping to make something happen, and it wants Juniper in particular to be on the defensive.
Juniper is a habitual counter-puncher; it has allowed Cisco to set the stage time after time and then boxed against the Cisco initiatives. The fact that Cisco thinks Juniper is spread too thin almost invites everyone to believe that Juniper might “un-spread” itself. But that could only come by reducing its enterprise commitments—Juniper depends too much on the service provider side. If that’s what Cisco wants, then it wants it because Juniper’s upcoming QFabric might be harmful to Cisco’s data center and content strategy.
If Juniper responds to Cisco as usual, by simply rebutting the comments Cisco makes, then Cisco will control the market dialog. If you want Juniper to talk about something, attack it there and it will help you drag the issue around the media circuit. If you don’t want something discussed, then just stay mum; Juniper will not raise the issue either. So for Juniper here, the right answer is to forget what Cisco is saying and focus on what Cisco doesn’t want Juniper to talk about.