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Cisco Spending Millions of Dollars Secretly Purchasing New Juniper Products 120

Posted by timothy
from the just-making-sure-they're-not-stealing-our-ideas dept.
FrankPoole (1736680) writes According to a CRN investigative report, Cisco has been spending millions of dollars over several years to secretly purchase Juniper Networks' products, including new QFabric and MX series routers, for use in its 'competitive analysis lab,' where the products are tested and reverse engineered. According to the report, some of the Juniper products purchased by Cisco were still in beta and not yet commercially released. In addition, CRN discovered that a main source for Cisco to obtain these Juniper products was, ironically, a company called Torrey Point Group, a fast-growing VAR that was awarded Juniper's Part of the Year in 2011.
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Cisco Spending Millions of Dollars Secretly Purchasing New Juniper Products

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  • And.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @01:00PM (#47223147)
    Dogs lick their balls. What's new?
    • Pretty much - I remember waaaay back to 2000-2001 when some contractor shared photos online of Microsoft buying Apple G5 PowerMac desktops by the pallet-load. [slashdot.org]

      ('course Microsoft showed no class at all in their response by firing the guy, but...)

      I figure Juniper will likely rethink their VAR relationship with Cisco's front company, though.

      • Re:And.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sabri (584428) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @03:01PM (#47224315)

        I figure Juniper will likely rethink their VAR relationship with Cisco's front company, though.

        Why? Juniper knows this might to happen. So why not make sure that Cisco pays top price rather than getting it from Ebay?

        QFX has been with customers for a long time now so I don't see a problem with that either. If a VAR can resell it to Cisco, it has been with early adopter customers for a while

        And what I don't understand is the part about reverse engineering. Yes, that may take place. But there is a very good other reason why every large vendor of routing equipment has competitive products in their engineering lab: interoperability. I have worked for two large vendors and have been in the labs of a few others and I have seen many interoperability labs. In fact, at one point in my career I was assigned to literally drag some equipment across the street to our direct competitor, install it in their lab and help them get some interoperability working (this was obviously to satisfy some issues we had with a large mutual customer). And for those interested, I crossed Holger Way and didn't stay in the parking lot :)

        Not to mention the fact that vendors ship a shitload of beta products every six months to the EANTC interoperability tests [eantc.de] and other marketing events.

        • by maliqua (1316471)

          because the bleeding edge juniper gear doesn't appear on ebay until its too late for them to do anything with the acquired knowledge

        • by s.petry (762400)

          And what I don't understand is the part about reverse engineering. Yes, that may take place. But there is a very good other reason why every large vendor of routing equipment has competitive products in their engineering lab: interoperability.

          I did not write TFA so don't know the true purpose for the spin, but as a hunch it's due to the Snowden leaks. Cisco did quite a bit wrong and lost people's trust. Even though you are correct that there are many reasons to purchase someone else' gear, software, etc.. people are going to assume the worst possible motive.

          Secondarily, if you want page hits you don't write fair articles. You focus all of your attention on the worst aspects possible to draw attention.

          I don't agree with any type of "spin", a c

          • Re:And.. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by RobWright (3692495) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @04:52PM (#47225073)
            I wrote the article. First, I can tell you unequivocally that the Snowden disclosures had nothing to do with this article. Furthermore, I don't think the article makes a judgment about Cisco's part in this matter; in fact, the article cites a legal expert in tech IP who explicitly states that Cisco's actions are in no way illegal (even if the product was procured before it was commercially available) and that buying your competitor's works for testing and reverse engineering is a required practice in the industry and "part of what makes markets work." Second, I take issue with your characterization of the article as spin, and your assertion that fair articles don't get page views. Lastly, I get the distinct feeling that you did not read the article. I may be wrong about that, and if so, I apologize for the incorrect assumption. But given your claim that the article is Snowden-inspired when there's no mention of the NSA or Snowden in the article (not to mention the article is more about Torrey Point Group and Juniper than Cisco), surely you can understand why I made the assumption.
            • Re:And.. (Score:4, Insightful)

              by s.petry (762400) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @08:44PM (#47226385)

              Thanks for the comments, but I believe you misunderstood my post.

              The Title of the Slashdot post is "Cisco Spending Millions of Dollars Secretly Purchasing New Juniper Products". The primary topic of your article is Torrey Point, but here it's changed to Cisco. Your article was spun to make Cisco look bad on Slashdot, and a paragraph was plucked out of the article to extend that point.

              In other words, the primary purpose of my post was not your article but the Slashdot post and title. Whoever posted the article here wrote a title to ensure maximum exposure while posting the link.

              That said, your article is not free of bias. The title "In the Shadows" indicates the negative connotation, but I believe it's directed more at Torrey Point. It's hard to write objectively, especially considering Torrey Points actions.

              Where the article has some spin (just a bit, nothing like the Slashdot summary) is that Cisco is painted as doing things abnormal in the industry. I'd bet dollars to donuts that Juniper buys millions of dollars worth of Cisco products every few years, just like Ericsson buys competitive products, and Alkatel buys competitive products, and Microsoft buys competitive products, etc...

              Most of the time these purchases are not for reverse engineering. These purchases are either for benchmarking or compatibility testing.

              A few qualifiers would have made it more objective, but hell I'm not your editor and don't get paid to write.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                Whoever posted the article here wrote a title to ensure maximum exposure while posting the link.

                Whoever? It's right there at the top of the summary: FrankPoole [slashdot.org]. And it makes sense because it is doubtful anybody here knows what the Torrey Points Group is, so the connection to Cisco (which people here will recognize) is explicitly pointed out.

                That said, your article is not free of bias. The title "In the Shadows" indicates the negative connotation

                Oh for god sake it maybe gives a "shady" connotation but given that these purchases are being made secretly by proxy means that connotation is pretty valid. Suggesting that creates bias is reading a bit much into it.

                Where the article has some spin (just a bit, nothing like the Slashdot summary) is that Cisco is painted as doing things abnormal in the industry.

                No it isn't.

                A few qualifiers would have made it more objective, but hell I'm not your editor and don't get paid to write.

                Sorry nobody is going to qualify and

                • by s.petry (762400)

                  Pointed out? No, the summary and title claims that Cisco is the problem. TFA mentions Cisco but the actual topic is a different company dealing with Cisco.

                  That someone does not know the company therefor a fake title and summary should be written is absolute bullshit, and you know it.

                • by s.petry (762400)

                  A bit more I should have covered:I don't know FrankPoole any more than I know CmdrTaco, nor would I know if he is connected with the source article. It's impossible to make that distinction, so save the condescending "we know who submitted the article". Since I don't know the person or connection I gave a few potential reasons for the spin.

                  If an article was written about "Bob's Reseller" (fictitious company) selling Redhat Licenses to Debian in a questionable way, and I wrote a Slashdot summary and submit

              • S. Petry, I appreciate your comments and feedback, but I think there are a few points in the article you may have missed. I hope this clears some of that up.

                That said, your article is not free of bias. The title "In the Shadows" indicates the negative connotation, but I believe it's directed more at Torrey Point. It's hard to write objectively, especially considering Torrey Points actions.

                I'm not sure what your point is here. Torrey Point committed an act that Juniper considered negative enough to de-authorize the company as a certified partner. So there's that. As for Cisco, once again I'll point out the article explicitly states that what Cisco did was 1) not illegal, and 2) not uncommon at all.

                "Cisco is painted as doing things abnormal in the industry. I'd bet dollars to donuts that Juniper buys millions of dollars worth of Cisco products every few years, just like Ericsson buys competitive products, and Alkatel buys competitive products, and Microsoft buys competitive products, etc..."

                Again, I think the article makes clear th

                • by s.petry (762400)

                  Apologies for the delayed response, the feedback is appreciated and noticed.

                  Again, I agree with most of your article. As I stated, I don't think what Torry Point did was right and since it involved Cisco I don't believe there was much to do for objectivity. The article seems to be very well researched and very well thought out.

                  I still don't agree with the point about reverse engineering. I have worked in IT for 30 years at several very large companies including DOD work. (not Cisco or Juniper). I agree

      • by kenh (9056)

        You do realize Microsoft produces software for the Macintosh, right?

      • by exomondo (1725132)

        Pretty much - I remember waaaay back to 2000-2001 when some contractor shared photos online of Microsoft buying Apple G5 PowerMac desktops by the pallet-load. [slashdot.org]

        For their Mac business unit you mean? You know the one that develops all that software for the Mac? They're going to have a hard time developing for a system they don't have.

        • by coxymla (1372369)

          Actually, it being 2003, they were probably development machines for the Xbox 360 which at that time was not known to be PPC based from memory.

      • Happens all the time. GM bought a couple of cars when Lexus brought out their first model to *study* them.

        "Approximately 5 percent of 1989 LS 400 sales went to buyers employed by rival manufacturers, including GM, Ford, and Chrysler.[136] When the LS 400 was disassembled for engineering analysis, Cadillac engineers concluded that the vehicle could not be built using existing GM methods."

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

    • It's because they can't make a fist.
    • Huawei was accused of pretty much the same thing by the US companies/gov't. Looks like not a Chinese exclusive, but it is OK that we do this.

    • by gnupun (752725)

      Dogs lick their balls. What's new?

      It exposes the harsh reality of what could happen without software patents. Cisco could reverse engineer Juniper's software, copy that functionality into their own product, and release that product six to nine months after the release of Juniper's product, without any legal consequences.

  • Reseller? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Greg666NYC (3665779)

    Perhaps they resell the products.

    1. Get Juniper routers
    2. Put custom firmware with NSA backdoor
    3. ?
    4. Profit

    • by Shakrai (717556)

      New Slashdot comment SOP:

      1. Read /. story about any topic, doesn't have to be relevant to the NSA.
      2. Make joke about the NSA.
      3. +5 upmod, with an average of +3 funny, +1 insightful, and +1 underrated

  • Twas Ever Thus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by necro81 (917438) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @01:05PM (#47223197) Journal
    As soon as you start putting something on the market, especially if you are not selling directly to the end customer (i.e., through a distributor or VAR), you have to assume that your competitors are going to get ahold of your products. Expect them to be reverse engineered. Trade Secrets do not exist once it's out in the wild.

    Frankly, I'd be surprised if Cisco didn't have this stuff. I would also be surprised if Juniper didn't have Cisco products.
    • Re:Twas Ever Thus (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ken D (100098) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @01:13PM (#47223289)

      This is not news, it was SOP back in the 90's to get your hands on the competitors' new products and figure out how to sell against them, i.e. figure out their weaknesses.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        What about pre-release/beta products that aren't commercially available and haven't started shipping yet?
        • by jeffmeden (135043)

          What about pre-release/beta products that aren't commercially available and haven't started shipping yet?

          Even better! Really if that's true then the VAR was clearly given too much trust in who it decides to sell pre-release products to. They should go to established customers with a good history of cooperation, not just anyone who asks. All I can say about this story is "and I bet Juniper is doing the same thing".

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Em Adespoton (792954)

            What about pre-release/beta products that aren't commercially available and haven't started shipping yet?

            Even better! Really if that's true then the VAR was clearly given too much trust in who it decides to sell pre-release products to. They should go to established customers with a good history of cooperation, not just anyone who asks. All I can say about this story is "and I bet Juniper is doing the same thing".

            I'd guess that Cisco is an established customer with a good history of cooperation -- they're definitely not just "anyone who asks."

            I'd also guess that the VAR resells Cisco as well as Juniper, and probably supplies Juniper with Cisco's kit as well.

            • by gnick (1211984)

              I'd also guess that the VAR resells Cisco as well as Juniper, and probably supplies Juniper with Cisco's kit as well.

              Which to me seems reasonable. It's not like one or the other is going to run to the patent office and declare that they'd like to patent a new implementation they've developed, but refuse to disclose what it is or how it works.

              When two companies are in similar lines, everybody generally comes out ahead when one knows what the other is up to.

            • by Anonymous Coward
              You know, you don't have to guess about that stuff -- it's in the article. The VAR was Juniper's top partner and did around 85 percent of its biz with them, and had no official ties to Cisco. The owners basically created shell companies, and they used their influence as a top Juniper partner to get the latest stuff at steep discounts and then turned around and sold it to Cisco, sometimes before the products were out of beta or closed testing.
          • Re:Twas Ever Thus (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @01:44PM (#47223667) Journal

            I can't believe Juniper just handed over their VARs beta products without some sort of an NDA. That just seems utterly bizarre and inept.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              "I can't believe Juniper just handed over their VARs beta products"

              From my experience with Juniper SRX products, it appears that they ship _only_ beta products.

        • by kenh (9056)

          If they are selling items, doesn't that make them "released"?

          • by Kalriath (849904)

            No. If you've got a good long-standing relationship with a company, they'll often loan, give or sell you unreleased hardware to get a feel for how it works and (hopefully) place a large order. We have some HP ElitePads at work with "Property of Hewlett-Packard Company", "Please return to HP Dallas, TX" and "Prototype - Not FCC approved" on them just because they wanted us to try them out and maybe get some when they were released.

      • by decsnake (6658)

        Indeed. Back in the '80s when I worked for a Corporation that made Digital Equipment, we had an group that purchased our competitors equipment, evaluated it against our products in the same categories, and published a document called the Competitive Handbook. Outside of our financial information, the Competitive Handbook was one of our most closely protected documents.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Its been SOP for thousands of years.

    • by the_B0fh (208483)

      It's the beta, not-for-sale-yet products that Cisco got their hands on that is the problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2014 @01:09PM (#47223239)

    Does anyone really think Juniper doesnt't purchase Cisco gear in a similar fashion? Corporate behavior like this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

    • by B'Trey (111263)

      Come as a surprise? If they WEREN'T doing this, then the people running the company would be incompetent and should be tossed out the door.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I share your lack of enthusiasm for this story. What company doesn't evaluate competitor products?

    • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @01:25PM (#47223451)

      I've never worked in a place that did not have a competitive analysis lab and that did not have a tear-down process where everyone's products were looked at top to bottom, literally dissected, x-rayed, etc. It's used by everyone from design engineers on future products, to supply chain analysts to lawyers looking for patent infringements.

      It's a good practice, too often companies get dominated by a few senior people with strong personalities who refuse to change. Show them a landscape of products were things are done differently, and with evidence that those things are working BETTER, and you can sometimes unclog some old-fartism. It's rare to see products with idea that hadn't been thought of before, but frequently you see implemented ideas that were shot down in your own org by someone.

      I don't care how prerelease something is, if you put it out there expect that your competitors will see it.

    • yea, I've worked for a couple of hardware companies and this was always how they did things and not a secret. They even gave a demo of how they use expensive xray machines to dissect chips and see how they worked. This wasn't just to steal ideas, it was also to find flaw to leak to the press or faults to use in sales pitches. I even found a new device at my local computer store once, mentioned it in a meeting and got asked by an engineer to pick one up and mail it to him in Japan. Some companies even go to

  • Amazing how current patent law is so useless it can't stop blatant reverse engineering, yet it can stifle so much real innovation.
    • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @01:19PM (#47223371) Homepage

      If it wasn't for legal reverse engineering, most of us would be sitting in front of $2000 IBM PCs.

      • by sribe (304414)

        If it wasn't for legal reverse engineering, most of us would be sitting in front of $2000 IBM PCs.

        Don't forget the IBM v Phoenix lawsuit. IBM wanted it that way, and thank goodness, they lost.

      • by _anomaly_ (127254)
        So, you're watching Halt and Catch Fire [amctv.com] too? ;-)
        • No. That's a pretty famous story. Is the show good?

          • by _anomaly_ (127254)
            Yeah, true. The show's OK so far. Has more potential to interest me than most of the other stuff on TV these days.
          • by mythosaz (572040)

            Only 1.1M watched the premiere, so despite it being "pretty good," I wouldn't get too attached to it. [Turn (their revolutionary war spy show) got about twice that many...]

            For geeks, there's some fairly cool retro-tech, but it's all only loosely based on parallel events, so it lacks some of the interest a more historically grounded show might have.

            • ...it lacks some of the interest a more historically grounded show might have.

              Like Mad Men, for example? I think HCF is starting out just fine. I'm curious to see where they take it.

          • It's utter drivel. The first episode at least showed a little promise, but whatever there was they swiftly destroyed in episode two.
            • by stdarg (456557)

              It is pretty bad indeed. And I've watched "Silicon Valley" already so I can't help but think of its take-downs of the self-important, pompous, "change the world" mentality every time the sales guy talks on HCF.

              • I'm enjoying Silicon Valley. It might have holes in it's portrayal of IT and technology, but at least it's got plenty of laughs and a story that doesn't make me want to slit my wrists (Halt and Catch Fire).
          • by citizenr (871508)

            What you really want to watch is this documentary: THE COMPAQ STORY - 1984 to 1988
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      • by westlake (615356)

        If it wasn't for legal reverse engineering, most of us would be sitting in front of $2000 IBM PCs.

        MS-DOS sold for $50 retail list.

        There were name-branded and commercially viable MS-DOS PCs on the market before the cloning of the IBM PC BIOS. The same with software.

        CP/M was the dominant business-oriented OS in the eight bit world and a 16 bit CP/M clone was a natural choice for IBM. But Microsoft had an entrant in the 16 bit UNIX sweepstakes and its willingness to sell an OS at mass market prices to all comers was something new.

    • by alen (225700)

      the point of patent law is to tell the world exactly how your idea works so someone can reverse engineer it with some improvements

  • This happens all the time amongst competitors. It doesn't mean they want to reverse engineer or violate patents; it is usually so you can educate yourself as to what your competitors are up to and make sure that you're staying competitive.

    • by AMDinator (996330)
      I can vouch for this.
    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      This happens all the time amongst competitors. It doesn't mean they want to reverse engineer or violate patents; it is usually so you can educate yourself as to what your competitors are up to and make sure that you're staying competitive.

      Rather, aside from maintaining competitive positioning, they are probably looking for anything novel that hasn't been patented yet, so they can copy it (and perhaps patent it themselves). Not every invention is patented or even patent worthy but it still could be valuable.

  • This is not at all surprising (or illegal). Almost any industry manufacturing any kind of wiget, be it a router, a car, or an orbital booster will purchase and examine their competition.

    This would be a story only if they acquired these illegally, for example by breaking and entering the competitor's research lab.
    • by gnupun (752725)

      This is not at all surprising (or illegal)

      Is it legal? Most software has a "don't reverse engineer our software" in the EULA.

  • Company in any area would be pretty silly if they don't buy and check how competitors' equipment works. Car analogy actually works here there - people selling Abcd cars would drive Bghj and Celkj cars, so they can better compare them and advise customers of faults in others.

    Even TFA says:
    purchasing a competitor's products for testing and reverse engineering is not only a common and accepted practice, but "an important component of entrepreneurial capitalism" in the IT industry. "This is part of what makes m

    • Car analogy actually works here there - people selling Abcd cars would drive Bghj and Celkj cars

      That Celkj sounds like some new East European vehicle brand.

      • by Moskit (32486)

        Sounds Turkish or Albanian to me.
        I guess car companies will run out of fancy names soon, and people will drive Ford Celkj or Fiat Celkj ;-)

    • Regarding intelectual property Cisco seems far more advanced on hardware level, so obtaining gear from competitor is not really going to move things forward. Article also does not mention (unless I missed it) obtaining equipment which is in developement.
      The best way for commercial spying is information exchanged by people - engineers from all those networking Silicon Valley companies know each other, they gossip, they betray secrets. This is how most of information leaks through, straight from the sources, not via reverse-engineering.

      You can be also completely sure that Juniper bought Cisco equipment for the same purposes, and so did other companies. Even TFA mentions Alcatel-Lucent buying Cisco. It was an all-out activity.

      Actually, Cisco used to be a front runner with more advanced network products. However, more and more network vendors, such as Juniper and Aruba, have caught up and passed Cisco. For example, while Juniper routers aren't as well known in the enterprise space, they are used heavily in the ISP and cloud provider space.

      The one area where Cisco still has an edge is the ability to centralize management of all of their devices. Practically every network management solution provider supports Cisco. This will c

      • by Moskit (32486)

        Thanks, missed the beta reference on first read.

        Cisco is still more advanced on hardware front, but they lag a lot on software. Standards implementation (even if created by Cisco) in particular, although given how many products they have to cover partially explains those problems.

        Juniper usually did "cheap but good enough" trick to gain a lot of ground. Cisco's products were often better engineered, but customers did not care for those better features, or did not understand them, which resulted in Juniper g

  • It might just have something to do with the fact that the Juniper products are with few exceptions a million times better. I avoid almost all of the CIsco gear like the plague.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Juniper products are with few exceptions a million times better.

      Exaggerate much?

  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @02:02PM (#47223837) Journal

    Various web hosting providers including GoDaddy have been known to buy hosting accounts at competitors. This is often done with a company credit card under the name of a company executive or division manager. They do it to see things like how much traffic a common application like WordPress or ZenCart can take on various price points for hosting at the competition. They may also check out customizations to the control panel software and choose which features they may want to implement for their customers, too. This is often not even frowned upon by the target company. It's an endorsement that you're of interest to the competition for one thing.

    Figuring out how your performance compares to the competition is quite different from being able to improve your own performance without killing your margin. That said, with something as easily monitored as a server account any attempts to poke around under the hood too much are easier to stop than in hardware like Juniper/Cisco.

  • ... would be a CRN investigative report that cisco does not purchase competitors' products for analysis.

    .

  • News Flash! Company legally buys competitor's gear on the open market!

    What, precisely, is the story here?

    • story is that one of juniper's major partners was underhandedly selling prerelease, demo, & beta products to cisco. while legal, it's shady as fuck, and is almost certainly something that would have pissed juniper off to the point of severing ties with the vendor.

  • This problem is as old as manufacturing.
    Do we really not know or fail to remember that this is how the entire Japanese electronics and automotive industries were spawned? This is how the electronic industry of Korea came about, and one third of the entire Soviet Union's compute capacity from 1950 to 1990. Not to mention the entire DECSYSTEM-20 compatibles market and all the AMD, Cyrix, IBM, NexGen, WinChip, RISE, etc. x86-compatibles market.

    I'm sure someone has already or will soon point out how this is n

  • In theory, your patent is supposed to mean that reverse-engineering for technology is both unnecessary and nearly worthless. You'd still expect some reverse engineering to find the specs of a product, either for marketing, making a competitive product, or interoperability.

  • Why is this a story? this is common practise for pretty much all industries, especially IT based ones. Most companies don't even try to hide the fact, nothing wrong with the practise, they would be fools if they were not constantly checking what the competition does.

  • I've worked for two different hardware manufactures in the past, one of which made boxes that go into data centers, and one that made boxes that go into living rooms. OF COURSE we bought our competitor's products via a "cut out" company, and then took them to the teardown and reverse engineering lab. Everyone does it. Everyone has always done it. Everyone will always do it. It is specifically permitted in intellectual property law, and it's also well understood in case law, such that everyone knows th

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