Tuesday, January 9, 2024

HPE acquires Juniper Networks

On January 8, the first rumors started to emerge that HPE was entering final discussions to acquire Juniper Networks for $13b. By January 9th, HPE announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement for the acquisition.

Juniper Networks, known for its high-performance networking equipment, has been a significant player in the networking and telecommunications sector. It specializes in routers, switches, network management software, network security products, and software-defined networking technology. HPE, on the other hand, has a broad portfolio that includes servers, storage, networking, consulting, and support services.

 The acquisition of Juniper Networks by HPE could be a strategic move to strengthen HPE’s position in the networking and telecommunications sector, diversify its product offerings, and enhance its ability to compete with other major players in the market such as Cisco.

Most analysis I have read so far have pointed out AIOps and Mist AI as the core thesis for acquisition, enabling HPE to bridge the gap between equipment vendor and solution vendor, particularly in the Telco space.

While this is certainly an aspect of the value that Juniper Networks would provide to HPE, I believe that the latest progress from Juniper Networks in Telco beyond transport, particularly as an early leader in the emerging field of RAN Intelligence and SMO (Service Management and Orchestration) was a key catalyst in HPE's interest.

After all, Juniper Networks has been a networking specialist and leader for a long time, from SDN, SD WAN, Optical to data center, wired and wireless networks. While the company has been making great progress there, gradually virtualizing  and cloudifying its routers, firewalls and gateway functions, no revolutionary technology has emerged there until the application of Machine Learning and predictive algorithms to the planning, configuration, deployment and management of transport networks.

What is new as well, is Juniper Networks' efforts to penetrate the telco functions domains, beyond transport. The key area ready for disruption has been the Radio Access Network (RAN), specifically with Open RAN becoming an increasingly relevant industry trend to pervade networks architecture, culminating with AT&T's selection of Ericsson last month to deploy Open RAN for $14B.

Open RAN offers disaggregation of the RAN, with potential multivendor implementations, benefitting from open standard interfaces. Juniper Networks, not a traditional RAN vendor, has been quick to capitalize on its AIOps expertise by jumping on the RAN Intelligence marketspace, creating one of the most advanced RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) in the market and aggressively integrating with as many reputable RAN vendors as possible. This endeavor, opening up the multi billion $ RAN and SMO markets is pure software and heavily biased towards AI/ML for automation and prediction.

HPE has been heavily investing in the telco space of late, becoming a preferred supplier of Telco CaaS and Cloud Native Functions (CNF) physical infrastructures. What HPE has not been able to do, is creating software or becoming a credible solutions provider / integrator. The acquisition of Juniper Networks could help solve this. Just like Broadcom's acquisition of VMWare (another early RAN Intelligence leader), or Cisco's acquisition of Accedian, hardware vendors yearn to go up the value chain by acquiring software and automation vendors, giving them the capacity to provide integrated end to end solutions and to achieve synergies and economy of scale through vertical integration.

The playbook is not new, but this potential acquisition could signal a consolidation trend in the telecommunications and networking industry, suggesting a more competitive landscape with fewer but larger players. This could have far-reaching implications for customers, suppliers, and competitors alike.

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