(Adds details, compares to estimates)
May 1 (Reuters) - Network gear maker Juniper Networks Inc beat Wall Street expectations for profit in the first three months of 2018, helped by higher demand for its equipment from data center operators.
Excluding items, the company earned 28 cents per share, beating analysts' average estimate of a profit of 26 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Total revenue fell 11.4 percent to $1.08 billion, although topping analysts' estimate of $1.05 billion.
Shares of the company rose 7 percent in trading after the bell in response, undoing half of a 13.2 pct drop since the start of 2018.
The Sunnyvale, California-based company has been cutting costs and shifting its focus to areas such as cloud computing to offset softness in the switches and routers markets, where it faces tough competition from bigger rivals such as Cisco Systems Inc.
"We hit the high-end of our guidance during the March quarter due to better than expected results from our cloud vertical and another quarter of growth in our enterprise business," Chief Executive Officer Rami Rahim said.
Juniper's net income for the first quarter ended March 31 fell to $34.4 million, or 10 cents per share, from $108.8 million, or 28 cents per share, a year earlier.
The company had in January warned of a hit from the delayed deployments and forecast adjusted earnings of around 25 cents per share and forecast revenue of around $1.05 billion for the first quarter. (reut.rs/2FxCcwm) (Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)