It's spring, and Juniper ( JNPR) is in full bloom.

The maker of equipment that moves traffic around the Internet sewed up an eagerly awaited partnership Monday with big phone-gear seller Lucent ( LU). Word of the nonexclusive deal sent Juniper up 12%, continuing the Sunnyvale, Calif., tech shop's monthlong winning streak. Lucent rose a dime, to $1.95.

Mired in a long communications-industry slump, Wall Street has taken to the Juniper story with a vengeance recently. Juniper shares have risen 38% since mid-April as investors have bet that the company will continue to make inroads on router-building rival Cisco ( CSCO). The Lucent deal is key to Juniper story in that regard, because Lucent was the last major holdout on Juniper's affiliate list. Still, observers noted that the arrangement doesn't preclude a Lucent tie-up with Cisco, nor will it do anything to bolster spending by the companies' penny-pinching big-telco customers.

IP Void

The Lucent-Juniper partnership allows the companies to market each other's equipment to phone companies. The reseller agreement, which had been in negotiations for several months, helps fill notable holes for both sides.


Gin Blossoms
Juniper rising


Having killed off most of its once-promising Internet protocol product pipeline, which had been under development using names like Nexabit and Springtide, Lucent faced a massive void on the IP side. Lucent patched some of that hole this year through a wireless equipment partnership with Cisco ( CSCO), but the company's phone-gear biz still appeared a step behind the times.

Even after three decades of Internet technology development, conventional telecom gear communicates in an assortment of arcane languages all its own. Failing to bridge the two worlds on their own, the big gearmakers have sought partnerships to span the tech gulch.

For Juniper, the Lucent arrangement completes a hefty partnership list that includes many of the world's top networking-equipment suppliers, including Nortel, Siemens and Ericsson. Though Juniper already has links to most of the world's phone companies, the Lucent deal nonetheless broadens its reach through Lucent's sales force.

'More Than a Reseller'

The deal also marks a key win where Internet gear rival Cisco could have easily been the top choice. Juniper and Cisco make IP routers, critical junction boxes that distribute vast amounts of Internet traffic to addressed locations. Monday's rally indicates that Juniper backers might be seeing the Lucent deal in a hopeful light as part of a larger trend.

That would be nothing new. Shares throughout tech have been on a mild upswing for most of the last month, but Juniper has certainly enjoyed the change of seasons more than most. The company's rally began shortly after last month's solid earnings report , which in many eyes highlighted the expanding range of opportunities unfolding before the company. Some analysts believe that the ever-expanding flow of Internet traffic will lift Juniper as big telcos rush to make their networks more efficient.

Of course, telecom investors have heard that one before.

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