Despite public statements to the contrary, Juniper appears to be moving fast on the acquisition front, particularly in wireless LANs.

The company quietly appointed a vice president of business development late last year to, among other things, orchestrate the company's acquisition of a wireless LAN player. Nicholas Pianim has a background in venture capital and once led a now-defunct Internet data center company.

Pianim did not respond to an interview request. A spokeswoman explained: "He's not a company spokesperson, and we are not willing to comment on his specific role in the company."

According to published reports, Juniper CEO Scott Kriens said at an analyst meeting less than two weeks ago that the company is looking to acquire firms and/or technology where it has gaps, but that it is in no hurry. Pianim's appointment indicates otherwise as Juniper and other industry players look to counter Cisco's recent $450 million acquisition of Airespace.

Sources say Pianim is in discussions with Juniper WLAN partner Colubris, as well as WLAN switch makers Aruba and Trapeze. The possible targets were tightlipped about any such talks. "There really isn’t anything we can say regarding Juniper or any other potential partnership," a Trapeze spokeswoman said.

Pianim is also overseeing an internal decision-battle between Aruba and Colubris gear at Juniper, sources say. The "winner" of that evaluation could end up being bought by the company, they say.

Some observers believe the frontrunner is Colubris, which has a two-year-old joint development and marketing arrangement with Juniper for public WLAN hotspot and secure enterprise WLAN applications. The two have multiple joint customer accounts.

Sources also say Aruba will be seeking well more than what Cisco paid for Airespace, which may make it too expensive for Juniper. Then again, the $1.3 billion network equipment maker paid $4 billion in stock last year for NetScreen.

Analysts expect Juniper to acquire companies this year in order to broaden and deepen its penetration into the enterprise network market. In addition to WLANs, other areas Juniper is considering are VoIP, storage, and Layer 3 and 4-7 switching.