Fridays are always big days for

loose speculation

.

Today's largely unfounded traders' desk discussions turned to

Juniper

(JNPR) - Get Report

and

F5

(FFIV) - Get Report

.

The Juniper buzz focused on its possible interest in acquiring a data center or storage shop. And separate speculation involved

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

or

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

taking an interest in a data networking specialist

The hot takeout notions come amid a rather

heated M&A climate in the data networking

sector.

First,

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

swooped in with a

surprising bid

for

Sun Micro

(JAVA)

after

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

got cold feet, in April.

And then there's the ongoing

three-way maneuverings

between

EMC

(EMC)

and

NetApp

(NTAP) - Get Report

for data efficiency specialist

Data Domain

(DDUP)

, further illustrating the degree of interest in the space.

The buzz around Juniper on Friday is that the company may want to branch out beyond its core Internet router business and into the incredibly sexy data center segment. Juniper, it can be argued, is somewhat boxed in as a

distant second player

in an increasingly Cisco-run Internet infrastructure.

Certainly Juniper could use a new market to spread its Internet gear expertise around, but typically the Sunnyvale, Calif. tech shop has been seen as a target of acquisition not a hunter. And Juniper watchers will recall that the company's big foray into network security with the NetScreen buy was all but a disaster.

Similarly, F5 has often been considered a takeout candidate as its data center gear continues to hold a strong position in the hardware market.

The thinking is that H-P could use F5 as a defensive move to counter Cisco increased interest in the data center. And by some measures, F5 would be a somewhat painless pickup by Cisco. F5 commands luxuriously wide 70%-plus gross margins that would be financially accretive to Cisco's data domination strategy.

One of the factors that would discourage a deal however, is that neither H-P or Cisco have the burning immediate desire to risk a big-ticket acquisition at a time like this.

F5 shares were largely unchanged while Juniper was up a modest 1% in a flat day for the Nasdaq Friday.