Juniper Preparing to Battle Cisco with Acquisition by HPE

A Juniper exec takes shots at Cisco, details the “reverse acquisition” and says he doesn’t see regulators blocking the $14 billion deal.

Christine Horton, Contributing Editor

July 3, 2024

5 Min Read
HPE acquisition of Juniper preps for battle with Cisco, says Tom Wilburn
Juniper Networks' Tom Wilburn on stage at AI-Native Now 2024, London, July 2.

Juniper Networks is readying itself for battle with Cisco through its acquisition by HPE.

That was the message from Juniper’s global VP of campus and branch networking, Tom Wilburn, on Tuesday. The exec was speaking to customers about the $14 billion deal at Juniper’s AI-Native Now 2024 event in London.

With Channel Futures in attendance, Wilburn said HPE wanted to leverage Juniper’s cloud-native artificial intelligence (AI) architecture, Mist, to take on Cisco.

“This is not just software,” he said. “This is a system. Its purpose-built hardware and software, designed to get the right telemetry from the user experience. And then to have AI to do something smart with all that data.”

Wilburn said Juniper, with its Mist AI architecture, has “gone from nowhere to No. 3 behind Cisco and HPE. Now it’s going to be a race with Cisco and HPE for the top spot. And we’re excited about that race because we think this technology really can make a difference,” he said.

At the event, Wilburn revealed details of what the new company will look like.

“This will be what some people call a reverse acquisition,” he explained. “Juniper will run the combined networking business. The CEO of Juniper, Rami Rahim, will take in what today is called HPE Networking, and fold that into Juniper and operate that new networking business.”

Related:Latest Channel-Impacting M&A: T-Mobile, Windstream, Insight, More

Juniper 'Confident' Regulators Won't Block Acquisition

Wilburn told customers the company was confident that the acquisition would receive approval from regulators. Last week, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it is considering whether the acquisition will stifle competition in the U.K.

“This is supposed to close at the end of this year or early next year,” he said. “It has been approved by the shareholders of both companies. HPE has raised the $14 billion so that they can write the check. And it’s subject to right now the governments in the U.K., the EU, and particularly the U.S. to simply say, this is going to be good for consumers. This is actually going to increase competition in the market and not decrease it, which we’re confident it will.”

Until then, Juniper will continue to compete with HPE Aruba, with Wilburn suggesting that Juniper was taking business from Aruba.

“Until [the deal is] approved by the government, we cannot come together. And by law, we have to continue to compete. So you can imagine what this is like right now for a Aruba salesperson, when the [customer] CEO says, ‘Hey, I think I ... like this one better. And I’m going to have them run the show.'”

Related:UK Regulator Investigating HPE’s Acquisition of Juniper

'Nasty Side Effects' of Cisco Tech

Wilburn was also critical of rival Cisco’s architecture. A former Cisco exec, Wilburn joined the company after Cisco’s acquisition of Airespace in 2005. Airespace made the wireless LAN controller technology that Cisco sells to the large enterprise. But the legacy technology comes with “nasty side effects,” said Wilburn.

“It has worked well, and when you consider how old it is, it’s actually amazing it’s worked as well as it has. But what it didn’t do well, the nasty side effects that came with it, it is complex to operate. Upgrading the software in that network requires that you take it down — that you make sure those versions in the APS, the controllers and all those ancillary systems are compatible. And sometimes navigating that is extremely difficult,” he said.

Wilburn also said Cisco’s automation frameworks had “failed” in the market. He described it as “the iPhone X of the networking market.”

“2023 was the inflection point; sales of this architecture are heading straight down. There is no growth in this market. What put a pin in it was this architecture will never do rich AI. In order to do rich AI, you need data. That data requires an elastic cloud behind it.”

Wilburn said the industry agrees that the future is cloud. He said Mist was taking enterprise share from rival products Cisco Meraki and HPE Central from Aruba. He stressed that three out of four of the largest companies in the world have moved to Mist.

“The largest bank in the world, the largest retailer and the largest company in the world. It is the only cloud that that can be simple. So we’re excited about this transition to a cloud architecture. That’s what’s behind this acquisition," Wilburn said.

Juniper Partners Excited by HPE Acquisition

Juniper EMEA channel lead Dale Smith told Channel Futures that partners are excited at the prospect of the acquisition.

“Our partners understand our AI messaging better than anybody," Smith said. "It’s not just marketing; it’s genuine AI built into what we do into the fabric of our DNA of wired, wireless, WLAN, security and data science. What they’re really excited about is how fast we can all collectively scale with this in the enterprise. The question has to be, how do we do it together? And of course, we don’t have every answer just yet, because we’re still in the process. But it’s exciting times.”

Juniper Networks' Dale Smith

Smith said the message to Juniper partners is to ramp up their efforts while the eyes of the industry are on the company.

“We have got the absolute best time right now where the market is looking at us. The big customers are looking at us. Our competition is looking at us. And it’s for all the right reasons, because we have something very special here. And that AI technology is a huge differentiator.”

Gemma Lloyd is director of operations for Juniper Elite Plus partner Roc Technologies. She described the acquisition as “a great opportunity.”

“Some of the benefits of the HPE organization, with its heritage and longevity, is with the innovation that Juniper is bringing to the table as well. There are some definite benefits that can be gained from that. I think as time progresses, that story needs to develop. Obviously, at the moment, it’s still in its infancy in terms of the announcement.

Roc Technologies' Gemma Lloyd

“We’re a partner with those organizations … we can see the benefits and we can see the positives of them really coming together," she added. "Because I think they both really complement each other in completely different ways.”

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About the Author(s)

Christine Horton

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Christine Horton writes about all kinds of technology from a business perspective. Specializing in the IT sales channel, she is a former editor and now regular contributor to leading channel and business publications. She has a particular focus on EMEA for Channel Futures.

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