December 9, 2003 5:00 PM PST

Juniper takes on Cisco for Uncle Sam's cash

Juniper Networks is going after Cisco Systems again.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, which makes routers that shuttle Internet Protocol, or IP, traffic around networks, announced Tuesday that it will set up a new federal systems unit to further challenge Cisco for government customers. It will assign staff to the dedicated sales team, which will be based in Herndon, Va., not far from Washington.

"We are absolutely taking on Cisco in the federal space, as we have in the commercial market," said Dubhe Beinhorn, vice president of Juniper's new federal systems group. "We always view Cisco as a lead competitor."

Juniper, which primarily targets Internet service providers and large carriers, has been the only company to successfully challenge Cisco in the market for high-end routers that handle IP traffic at the core and at the edges of a network. The San Jose, Calif.-based company still maintains a good lead over Juniper in this market and has claimed a roughly 30 percent share during the past several quarters.

Juniper has been selling into federal accounts for the past three years. As its typical carrier customers continue to slash their spending, this market is increasingly gaining importance for the company.

"To sell successfully to the federal government, especially in Washington, D.C., you need to send the message that you understand their business and that you have the resources dedicated to service the market," Beinhorn said.

IP networking companies have started taking advantage of the U.S. government's aggressive efforts to build new security networks. Cisco, which makes a broad range of low-end IP-switching and routing gear in addition to high-end IP routers, generates roughly 10 percent of its overall business from the federal government, according to Stephen Kamman, an analyst at CIBC World Markets, a division of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Other networking companies--such as Extreme Networks and Foundry Networks, which sell Ethernet switching gear--have also done well in sales to government bodies over the past year.

"The government is spending aggressively on IP products," he said. "Juniper's focus on the federal market is probably indicative of a broader effort to get into these accounts and deepen their relationships."

Juniper has already been cited as a top contender in the highly coveted Global Information Grid Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE) contract. This project, sponsored by the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, will eventually use IP technology to link various federal government agencies over a high-speed optical network.

In September, rumors surfaced that Juniper's T640 core router had beaten out Cisco's core routing products to be the finalist in a portion of the GIG-BE contract. Beinhorn would not comment specifically on the status of the contract, but she said product selections are expected by the end of 2003. CIBC's Kamman estimates that the IP routing portion of the project will be worth between $50 million and $100 million over the next few years.

Cisco executives said they're not threatened by Juniper's beefed up efforts to garner more of the federal business.

"Healthy competition is good," said Doug Dennerline, senior vice president of U.S enterprise for Cisco. "It's not news that Juniper is in this market. It's a dollar-rich environment, and everybody is trying to get a piece of it."

 

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