Juniper has made steady gains in the marketplace for some time, and although they are unlikely to displace Cisco any time soon, Juniper is well worth consideration as a technology choice — and also as a career direction. In this post, we take a look at where and why Juniper is better than its competition and why it’s a good bet both for users and for networking professionals.
Juniper was originally founded to compete directly against Cisco and has a long-standing rivalry with the industry giant, even being called a potential “Cisco Killer.” Obviously, that has not happened. However, Juniper — alongside networking vendors like HP Enterprise, Huawei, and Arista — represents a viable routing, switching, and security solution alternative to Cisco.
In another CBT Nuggets blog post, Juniper vs. Cisco: 4 Reasons to Go Juniper, we compared Juniper and Cisco from the perspective of the certification opportunities. Now, we look at the matchup from the product and performance perspective, and consider five key reasons to choose Juniper Networks.
1. Top of the line products for routing, switching, and security
Cisco presents itself as a one-stop shop for a wide range of networking needs, including enterprise and service provider networks, data center networks, mobility solutions, network security, cloud, conferencing, and collaboration.
Juniper does not try to be all things to all people. Their focus is clearly on providing top of the line solutions for routing, switching, and security. Juniper’s reputation is for speed and throughput; their products avoid the feature overload that may tend to slow down the equivalent Cisco product.
Juniper’s Junos operating system is much more modular and robust than Cisco’s feature-rich IOS. If one Junos process crashes, it doesn’t necessarily bring down the entire network node. And that should make you sleep easier at night.
2. Exceptional value for specific needs
Juniper — like Cisco, HPE and other small-share vendors — can satisfy the core networking needs of most enterprise and service provider customers. When it comes to the bells and whistles, however, Cisco’s rich feature set will usually win out.
Juniper concentrated on engineering for high data throughput in the design of their products, first for ISP networks and then for enterprise customers. They use custom chips called ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) expressly designed for fast data transfer, rather than relying on general-purpose chips and software.
The bottom line is that with Juniper, you’re going to get great performance, but at a price point that is superior to their Cisco equivalents.
3. Open architecture
A recurring customer issue with Cisco is their fear of being locked into the vendor’s proprietary architectures, many of which come from their various and diverse acquisitions. Juniper, in contrast, adopted a more open approach and designed their product line from the ground up, based on the same architecture and the same Junos operating system. Junos OS is a modular system that is based on the UNIX-like open source FreeBSD. This architecture, combined with a top-of-the-line market approach, results in Juniper having wide-ranging interoperability with other vendor switches.
Juniper also adopted the OpenFlow open networking standard as the basis for their software-defined networking (SDN) initiatives, while Cisco works with ACI, their own proprietary hardware-based approach.
Juniper has a highly automatable infrastructure. As with all UNIX and Linux systems, Junos is API-driven, which means that it’s easy to build admin and management extensions for Juniper, using the same FreeBSD kernel calls that the Juniper command line interface (CLI) itself uses. Better yet, you can actually use the Python language to build automation scripts calling the same API.
4. Agility to stay at the leading edge
As a company that is a fraction of Cisco’s size, Juniper cannot apply the same level of engineering resources to a broad range of research topics. Juniper, however, has a history of focusing their development attention on routing, switching, and security. For example, they have applied their resources to areas including network virtualization, remote office support, and software defined networks, while Cisco was less agile and forced to play catch-up.
5. Keep Cisco honest
One of the drivers for the whole open source movement was customers’ fear of being at the mercy of one or two dominant vendors. Cisco’s proprietary approach, broad product portfolio, and dominant market position do little to allay fears of getting locked in. Customers see Juniper — and other small-share networking vendors — as a counterpoint to Cisco’s market power and premium pricing strategies.
Juniper may not be as big as Cisco, their product line may not be as broad, but they can meet the core networking needs of enterprise and service provider customers. Having Juniper as a component of your network or as a responder to your RFP will ensure that Cisco treats you fairly.
What’s in it for you?
You may not have a say about which networking vendor your employer chooses, but you do get to choose what skills and certifications to develop and pursue. Cisco certifications seem to get all the press, but there’s a shortage of certified Juniper specialists. And that shortage is reflected in what the market is willing to pay. SimplyHired.com shows that a Juniper Networks Certified Associate – Junos (JNCIA-Junos) is likely to get paid about 20 percent more than the Cisco equivalent CCNA.
Check out our Juniper training and get on track to become a Juniper-certified professional.
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