Just as they did in the third quarter, Juniper Networks (NASDAQ:JNPR, news, filings) turned in a stronger than expected performance on all fronts in their fourth quarter report yesterday after the market closed. Revenue, non-GAAP earnings per share, and non-GAAP operating margin all came up very solid. However, also just as in Q4, they kept their cautious outlook toward the near future and tempered expectations. Here's a quick chart with some context:
|$ in millions||Q4/11||Q1/12||Q2/12||Q3/12||Q4/12||Q1/13
|Non-GAAP Operating Margin %||18.6%||12.0%||15%||16.9%||18.2%||14-16%|
The first quarter is generally Juniper's weakest, but the street had its eyes on a revenue range straddling $1.07B, so some may see Q1 guidance as a bit light. But viewed in light of their consistently cautious footing, it looks right on target to me with the same sort of setup in mind. They do seem to be looking forward to some healthier spending from network operators, as CEO Kevin Johnson said on the call:
U.S. Tier 1 service provider spending in 2012 was healthy, and we think signs in our business point to some improved momentum in routing in 2013 from U.S. and European service providers.
For all vendors 2013 looks to be the year that SDN built, and while that probably won't be reflected in the financials it will surely dominate the PR war. Last week Juniper broke its relative silence on the subject by putting a detailed strategy out there, and they are clearly ready to move. But I get the feeling that this is a tiger that everyone is riding but nobody can quite reach its ears so it's going to go where it's going to go.
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