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When Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) reported a blowout quarter last week, the stage looked set for a parade of triumphant tech stocks. But then IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) came along to put a damper on the festive spirit, and nobody else has stirred up much excitement since.

Against that backdrop, Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR  ) comes in with a perfectly serviceable quarter. Sales jumped 24% year over year to $978 million, and non-GAAP earnings improved from $0.19 per share to $0.30 per share over the same time frame. CEO Kevin Johnson is bullish on his company's prospects: "With an expanding product portfolio and strong momentum in critical growth areas of high performance networking, we feel confident in our view of growth for the second half of 2010."

What speaks in Juniper's favor is the company's focus on truly large, enterprise-class networking systems. While Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) delivers products for just about any networking need you can think of (and then some), Juniper goes after customers like AT&T (NYSE: T  ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) with gusto -- supremely connected network giants with a constant need for bigger, better, faster networks. That's a winning strategy when telecom networks are at the brink of a generational switch as in the current move from 3G to 4G connectivity.

Of course, Mr. Market doesn't see it my way: Juniper's stock swooned to the tune of 2.6% in aftermarket trading, based not on actual results but on a too-timid third-quarter forecast. Guidance is for suckers anyhow.

If you like Juniper, this could be a great spot to start a position. If not, you could look back to industry leader Cisco, or to Brocade Communications Systems (Nasdaq: BRCD  ) , which is lining up new partners as Cisco steps on the toes of its old allies.

What's your favorite networking stock and why? Come on down and share your thoughts in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value choice. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. The Fool owns shares of Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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