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Juniper engineers depart for start-up

Two of the company's top engineers, who helped develop its flagship product, decide to start up their own operation.

Juniper Networks confirmed that two of its top engineering executives have left the company to form a start-up.

Ashok Krishnamurthi, general manager of infrastructure products, and R.K. Anand, vice president of chip engineering, were two of Juniper's earliest employees when the company started eight years ago. They helped develop the company's flagship product, the M40, an IP core router that was designed to sit in large carrier networks and shunt packets across the Internet at high data rates.

Krishnamurthi and Anand officially left Juniper about a month ago to work on starting a new company, Susan Ursch, a spokeswoman for Juniper, said Wednesday. Exactly what kind of technology the two engineers are developing at the start-up isn't yet known, but Ursch doesn't expect it to compete with Juniper's products.

"We wish them well," she said. "They were both early employees, and they made huge contributions to the company. Now they're planning their next venture, so stay tuned."

In the past couple of years, core-routing upstarts have not fared well. In June, the most lauded member of the group, Procket Networks, was scooped up by Cisco Systems for $89 million in cash. Procket, founded in 1999, had raised more than $277 million in venture funding and was rumored to be on its last legs.

Other core IP routing start-ups also have hit the skids over the years, including Hyperchip, Ironbridge Networks and Pluris. Investors poured millions into each of these companies without ever seeing a product sold.

Juniper was founded in 1996 to give Internet service providers an alternative to routers from Cisco. Over the years, Juniper has become the only company to successfully take market share from Cisco in core routing. While Cisco still dominates the industry with roughly 70 percent of the market, Juniper has consistently garnered about 30 percent market share.

After two major revolutions in its core-routing product line, Juniper is now branching out into new markets. Specifically, it is pursuing the corporate market through the acquisition of security company NetScreen Technologies. It also is developing new routing products on its own designed specifically for the enterprise market. The company is addressing the small- and medium-business market with a new remote access technology introduced earlier this week.