Juniper Networks: Solid ServiceBy Brian P. Watson Print
Customers applaud Juniper's flexible tools and commitment to customer service.
Customers of Juniper Networks, one of the earliest players in the intrusion security field, say the Sunnyvale, Calif., vendor excels in customer service, whether it's a quick response to a service call or consulting users on new products.
In 2002, information-technology administrator Bill Sugnet looked to build a multi-layered security system for the San Juan Water District, which supplies water to more than 265,000 customers in Sacramento and Placer counties in California.
Two major pieces of that approach, Sugnet says, were a firewall and intrusion detection system that integrated and worked together. After tinkering with open source intrusion detection, Sugnet decided he wanted a tool that could also block threats.
Along with a NetScreen firewall from Juniper, he went with the firm's Network Intrusion Detection and Prevention 500 appliance, which can sit in the network traffic path and stop threats, or just work in "sniffer," or detection-only, mode, along with a NetScreen firewall.
Sugnet says the box took less than three hours to get onto the network; training his staff took about three days. Since then, Sugnet says he's called support only twice, for minor issues, and that both times he got a solution the same day.
Most important, the appliance has passed the test: "We have not been directly attacked by someone with malicious intent," Sugnet says. "Whether it's because we're a small target, or that we have a good defense—I don't care."
Perry Jarvis, who recently left his job as network operations manager for the city of Burbank, Calif., to work for Extreme Networks, says Juniper's support staff stands out. On top of getting answers the same day on support questions, Jarvis says Juniper excels in providing daily signature updates and patches.
Sanjay Beri, Juniper's director of product management, says that type of customer support is one prong of the firm's overall strategy. Besides ensuring its customers have the latest protection, the firm also consults users on new product development. For example, Beri points out that Juniper often invites customers to take part in two- to three-month beta tests, and asks customers for what he calls "wish lists" for new product features.
But not everybody got what they wished for. Dan Lukas, lead security architect with Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care, says his Juniper box, with a $65,000 price tag, shut down three times in the course of a month this year.
That meant that during those outages—only one of which lasted more than an hour—the appliance stopped scanning the flow of packets into the network, leaving it susceptible to malicious traffic. Luckily for him, Lukas says no threats damaged his network.
Because the organization processes insurance payments and transfers health information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on
a daily basis, Aurora's management continued using the Juniper box with some hesitation. Lukas says Juniper never quite figured out the problem but indicated that it could have been a wiring problem in the box.
(Juniper's Beri says he's not familiar with the Aurora case but says hardware failures are not common, according to the company's research.)
Still, Lukas says Juniper's NetScreen firewalls have been "rock solid" and haven't failed once.
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