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It’s not a Microsoft thing stupid, it’s about Juniper!

Is Juniper running scared? Moving in new directions? Something’s up. CEO Scott Kriens — who has been with the company since its inception in 1996 — is out, and folks on the street say they didn’t see this one coming. Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft’s Platform & Services division is in, and Microsoft folks also say they had no clue.

Kriens will remain at Juniper as chairman of the board working with “leadership and strategy” — you know, now that he’s no longer really a leader.

While most of the press is talking about the stunner at Microsoft, the seismic shift may really be occurring at Juniper.

Juniper also got lost in the media shuffle of the Brocade-Foundry acquisition announcement this week. Though Brocade’s move to become the second furthest reaching networking technology in the market is meant as a blow to Cisco, analysts said yesterday the real problem here is for Juniper.

Juniper has been scrapping with Cisco for years in the networking market, and as “high performance” converged networking becomes more prevalent, Cisco has been winning the war, though Juniper has held its ground. If Brocade is successful, it won’t likely take down Cisco, but it could knock Juniper on its bum.

Here’s the catch: Kriens is the architect of Juniper’s “high performance networking” message. That may be why Juniper investors are flagging. When Johnson’s appointment was made official this morning, Juniper shares slumped 4% to $21.98.

It’s obvious that Juniper is shuffling execs for some sort of strategy change. The company also recently hired Luis Avila-Marco, formerly VP of corporate strategic planning at Scientific Atlanta (a Cisco company), as the head of corporate strategy.

 Juniper lost its COO, Stephen Elop, to Microsoft early this year.  He is now president of the Microsoft Business Division (aka the Office group cash cow.) Microsoft sources said in the hiring process there, it was clear that Elop was a potential successor to Kriens at Juniper.

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