Security implications of HPE's plan to buy Juniper Networks

While networking is the main driver of HPE's plan to acquire Juniper Networks, security is a big part of the strategy as well.

Almost as quickly as the rumors that HPE was considering an acquisition of Juniper Networks got out, they were confirmed.

HPE will pay $14 billion for the networking and security vendor in a deal that is expected to close in late 2024 or early 2025. This has the opportunity to be a transformative deal for a variety of reasons, many of which were covered in depth by my colleague Bob Laliberte. On top of the technology drivers for this deal, HPE's go-to-market engine has the opportunity to help Juniper find traction among organizations they have typically struggled to reach -- the small and midsize enterprise.

Yet one of the overlooked aspects of this deal are the security implications. While networking was the main driver of the deal, HPE CEO Antonio Neri and Juniper CEO Rami Rahim indicated that security was a big part of the competitive thesis as well. And it should be; convergence continues to be a major trend tying these two areas together.

Juniper has unquestionably made strides modernizing its security portfolio over the last few years. Its Connected Security vision has resulted in its entry into the SASE market via Security Director Cloud and Secure Edge, as well as an innovative approach of enforcing threat management policies on switches and access points across the network. That said, its pace of expansion has been methodical. On the HPE side, the Axis Security acquisition accelerated its SASE plans as well.

There appears to be an opportunity to combine the more advanced, built-in-the-cloud Axis platform for edge services with the traditional Juniper branch and data center offerings for an end-to-end approach. However, Juniper's strength in this area might create difficulties. Where other vendors have paid lip service to centralized management, Juniper has invested in Security Director Cloud. Realizing the full value of Juniper and Axis will require unifying the back end.

Additionally, executives stated that they envision GreenLake as a platform to deliver services with networking as the core competency following the acquisition's close. Security must be a part of that story, and requires investment to round out the portfolio.

Cloud security remains a key focus for many organizations, with multi-cloud security, posture management and securing Kubernetes environments often at the top of the list. This is reflected in Cisco's recent acquisitions of Valtix and Isovalent. Juniper has some offerings here, but it needs more to compete for leadership in the space long term.

Ultimately, HPE is saying the right things regarding security, but will have to prove its intentions.

Due to the lengthy timeline for this deal to close, security pros might not have answers for a bit. As noted, both Axis and Juniper have innovated a lot over the last few years; if and how that changes moving forward might provide clues as to the direction HPE takes. On the whole, this should be positive for Juniper, Axis and HPE customers.

John Grady is a principal analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group who covers network security. Grady has more than 15 years of IT vendor and analyst experience.

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget. Its analysts have business relationships with technology vendors.

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