We attended a well-organized and information-packed virtual conference hosted by Juniper Networks last week. While there were many themes (400G, telco cloud, AI, Mist), the one that really came through was how much the Mist acquisition has reinvigorated the Juniper organization. About a year ago, Juniper made its acquisition of the Wi-Fi startup. It is clear a year later that Juniper’s Enterprise strategy has been “Mistified.” We will share some Mist statistics from conference and our thoughts, as well.
Juniper shared some milestones that now characterize the Juniper Enterprise group:
We asked the company what has worked well with the acquisition, including whether the deal structure may have contributed towards to its success. Juniper executives explained that there was nothing special about how the acquisition was structured beyond the normal incentives for the acquired team. What happened after the acquisition, though, is somewhat unique: in effect, the Enterprise group at Juniper was subject to a reverse merger with Mist, whereby the Mist management team now leads the group. Perhaps the fact that the Mist team is in charge of the show explains the rapid integration of the existing Juniper products into the Mist AI management system. Perhaps, also, the integration went well was because the Juniper products (switches, SD-WAN and Security) were designed to collect and easily share telemetry data for use by the Mist AI system.
Juniper also featured a customer – whose name we cannot share – that is a major fast food chain across the US. It currently has 10,000 Wi-Fi Access Points with another vendor and recently made the decision to replace them with Mist Wi-Fi 6 APs by the end of 2022. We found it interesting how important support is for IoT and the increased importance of outdoor Wi-Fi during the pandemic. The company is deploying four indoor APs and three outdoor APs per restaurant. The customer spokesperson shared that Mist does AI-based, dynamic radio resource management (RRM) very well and he shared numerous screenshots showing power levels that were kept around 11-13 dBm instead of values he recalls seeing closer to 20 on the existing infrastructure. At this point, the customer has installed Mist APs in over 50 restaurants and he says he has not had a single Wi-Fi-related trouble ticket from these locations. He is also looking to implement location services in the future with the company’s vBLE technology.
The company’s cloud-based location analytics capability is designed to serve as a contact tracing and crowd management system to allow Juniper WLAN customers to reduce risks as employees and visitors go to the campus environment. The company introduced this contact tracing capability in May 2020. The company said its cloud-based contact tracing service is something that can operate on top of Juniper infrastructure, as well as its competitors. The company shared details about a large elite US university that is using the service and decided to upgrade to Juniper WLAN infrastructure as well.
Our view is that Juniper is well-positioned in the Enterprise market because by year-end it will have an AI-driven, single-pane operations system that covers Wi-Fi, Ethernet Switching, Security and SD-WAN. This is an enviable position because increasingly customers are making purchasing decisions for various equipment at the same time, and they are looking to reduce ongoing operational costs. By managing a system with a single-pane, customers can correlate customer experience, application responses and network issues in an integrated system, and pinpoint corrective action. This is not to say that Juniper has an exclusive on single-pane managed systems covering all these network systems – Cisco, Fortinet and others lay claim in the same. Juniper is in good company.
Microsoft acquired Israeli startup, CyberX Labs today in a move that gets Microsoft Azure into the IoT security market. We have been tracking CyberX for a couple years and have generally categorized it as an emerging player in the Operational Technology Access Control (OTAC) market. More recently, it has smartly repositioned itself as an IoT network discovery, posture assessment and management company. We see OTAC as an adjacent market to an existing, more IT-oriented security market called Enhanced Network Access Control (ENAC). Microsoft explains that CyberX will extend its Azure IoT security capabilities towards devices used in industrial IoT, Operational Technology and infrastructure scenarios, and that, it will allow customers to discover their existing IoT assets, manage and improve security posture of these devices.
We see this move by Microsoft as encroaching into the network security space a bit further than it had before. And, it is using IoT and industrial operations as a means to enter. We sill see the CyberX portfolio as an OTAC company, but since many IoT devices are just Internet Protocol (IP) connected devices, the CyberX portfolio can perform many of the tasks of that of an ENAC system. And so, this puts Microsoft quite closely in competition with the existing leaders in the much-larger ENAC market, namely, Cisco, HPE Aruba, Forescout and Fortinet (listed as a partner on the CyberX Labs website). Cisco and Forescout have announced OTAC products recently, as well. HPE Aruba, a big player in ENAC, had integrated CyberX into its Clearpass ENAC product in 2019 and featured CyberX at its user conference in 2019.
So, given Microsoft is acquisitive these days and clearly has an interest in beefing up its Azure IoT capabilities, and given that Forescout is in the midst of a failed merger bid from investor Advent, perhaps it is time for Microsoft to take a closer look at Forescout.