COMDEXvirtual: Juniper CEO Urges Rethinking Of Network Architecture


The explosion of interest in both cloud computing and the mobile Internet is placing unprecedented demands on the network. To solve those challenges -- and create new revenue streams -- the very architecture of the network and the data centers needed to support it needs to be rethought.

That was the message from Kevin Johnson, CEO of Juniper Networks, who in a COMDEXvirtual keynote address urged solution providers and customers to rethink the legacy approach to networking.

Johnson delivered a keynote session Wednesday at COMDEXvirtual, the online conference hosted by CRN parent company Everything Channel. The show takes place November 16 - 17, and sessions are available on-demand until May 17, 2011.

Legacy thinking, Johnson argued, is precisely the problem, because for the new network demands, it will prove too complex, too slow, too expensive and too inflexible.

Johnson took the reins at Juniper in September 2008 after a 14-year decorated career at Microsoft. Throughout 2010, he and Juniper's top lieutenants have been looking to position the company as provider of "The New Network."

Partners are getting the message -- many see Juniper as finally having its marketing ducks in a row, for example -- and as Johnson himself made clear in an exclusive CRN interview back in May, Juniper has put a stake in the ground on what he calls the New Network "thought leadership agenda."

During his COMDEXvirtual keynote, Johnson traced the emergence of networking needs through the mainframe computing era of the '60s, through the arrival of barcode scanners and other critical networking technologies in the '70s, to the client-server and distributed computing models, modern networking architectures and cloud computing trends seen in the decades hence.

It's the mobile Internet, however, that's reshaping the way consumers and businesses access central computing, Johnson noted, referencing the 2007 debut of YouTube on a mobile device as a "harbinger of applications to come." And all that mobile traffic requires investments in massive data centers to store and process that data -- data centers that have to combine with intelligent devices, and a network that has to connect them all.

"Simply put, the two key mega-trends all of us need to be mindful of are cloud computing and the mobile Internet," Johnson said. "The mobile Internet and cloud computing fundamentally change the economics and the experience of the way people work, and also put a great amount of pressure on the future of the network."

The model that's worked in the past isn't going to for much longer, as the carriers providing connectivity to enable the mobile Internet are struggling to keep up.

"The network is creaking under the load of traffic," he said. "Using the legacy approach, the costs start to exceed the revenue, and the economic model breaks."

Johnson expects to see accelerated spending on technologies that preserve the network, such as server virtualization, desktop virtualization, security software and appliances, unified communications, WAN optimization, SaaS applications, networking management software or appliances, wireless networking, telepresence and application acceleration and load balancing.

Break out of data center and networking architecture that is a "one box, one point solution" and offer, instead, "one platform and unlimited applications." The former way, which Johnson referred to as a "vertically oriented, closed approach," not only can't scale, but is also "the least efficient way to deploy capital."

"Some people think you have to make a choice," Johnson said. "You have to choose between good economics and a poor user experience, or a greater user experience and poor economics. We believe there's a balance point and an opportunity to do both."

The platform message is what Juniper is driving with Junos, which takes the best of its investments in silicon, fabric and software and better enables partners to build more efficient networks, Johnson said. That's a big difference from Juniper's two main data center and networking competitors -- Cisco and Hewlett-Packard. Johnson has repeatedly referred to his rivals throughout 2010 -- and again at COMDEXvirtual -- as the status quo and the commoditizer.

"We don't think that the status quo and the commoditization are the ways to solve the real problems customers face," he said. "We believe it takes innovation."