IBM and Juniper Announce Smarter Networks Partnership

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  February 25, 2015

IBM and Juniper Networks announced an initiative to provide real time insights into network behavior to help customers, such as communications service providers (CSPs), improve mobile experiences, address Internet of Things (IoT) application demands and discover new opportunities gleaned from big data.

The pair plan to achieve this by enabling the design/delivery of next generation high performance network analytics solutions, including one in which Juniper’s MX Router Service Control Gateway (SCG) and Contrail will be integrated with IBM Now Factory analytics. The companies said that this integration will enable the optimization of network operations, as well as customization of service experience based on who is using the network, the applications being run and the capabilities and location of endpoint devices.

IBM analytics capabilities will also be integrated with Juniper’s Cloud Analytics Engine (CAE). In addition, other IBM solutions, including InfoSphere BigInsights for Hadoop, InfoSphere Streams, PureData for Analytics, Watson Analytics and SPSS will also be leveraged in the initiative. Finally, Juniper will market IBM Analytics capabilities as integral components of its carrier grade routers, switches, firewalls and SDN solutions.

The pitch

IBM and Juniper Networks plan to use analytics to refine and redefine network performance and user experience.

Final analysis

The concept of technological ubiquity – access to a given technology or solution virtually everywhere – has been a core concept in the IT industry for decades, signaling successful market penetration and commercial sustainability. But it takes more than simple access for a technology to become truly ubiquitous. Without achieving excellence in both technological performance and user experience, ubiquitous access can be distinctly underwhelming.

That’s especially true when it comes to mobile communications. Dropped calls and dead spots have long been facts of life for mobile end users, though they are far less common today than they were just a few years back. But as smart phones have become increasingly essential to the way companies do business, the related stakes are higher than ever before. Just as importantly, with more and more companies investigating, planning or pursuing IoT solutions, the ability to reliably support associated networks could determine the success and future of this entire class of technology.

That’s the basic background of the new initiative between IBM and Juniper Networks. Both understand the crucial role that user experience plays in the success of mobile devices, services and apps, and the pair intends to combine their relative strengths – IBM in analytics and Juniper in carrier grade network technologies – to help CSPs and others deliver and maintain the highest levels of mobile service.

By embedding IBM’s Factory Now solutions with Juniper’s infrastructure devices and integrating predictive analytics directly into the data stream, the two believe they will gain deep insights into network performance that will allow CSPs to proactively support optimal network performance. That, in turn, will help ensure customer satisfaction and businesses delivering on their promises reliably and consistently.

This all sounds pretty good, but is there anything standing in the way of IBM and Juniper’s success? Possibly. Network optimization isn’t a terribly new thing. In fact, vendors including Cisco and Nokia Siemens have sunk considerable funds into self-optimizing network (SON) technologies with the former spending $475M on network optimization player Intucell in early 2013. We also believe that excitement over the opportunities in IoT is driving additional development in this space, much of it out of sight.

However, IBM and Juniper are targeting a slightly different issue – how to use data in the network to optimize not just the network but the customer experience, as well.

While it’s fair to say that IBM and Juniper aren’t the first to find seats at the network optimization table, both bring considerable assets and talents to the task. IBM in particular has one of the strongest analytics portfolios in the industry, along with deep expertise in a wide range of IT infrastructure technologies and processes. Juniper has been a consistently innovative networking player, but partnering with IBM in this initiative should allow the company to hit the market with workable solutions much more quickly and with far less out of pocket than its competitors.

Overall, IBM and Juniper Networks’ new initiative appears to bode well for everyone involved. The two companies seem well-disposed to one another, and their individual solutions are highly complementary. Existing customers like CSPs will find much to like, and over time we expect the effort to result in a solid portfolio of IoT-related solutions. That said, the real measure of success in IT is imitation. So if, or when, other vendors begin exploring similar mobile-oriented partnerships, we’ll know for certain that IBM and Juniper are firmly on the right path.

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