Juniper Networks CEO: ‘We’re Just Scratching The Surface’ With AI-Powered Networking

'There’s a lot of talk about AI and it can be very confusing. It’s a cluttered space. I think the best thing that customers and partners can do is to look at actual examples of deployments. And more importantly, the value that has been delivered as a result of these AI-based deployments for our customers,” Juniper Networks,’ CEO Rami Rahim tells CRN.


Juniper Networks CEO Rami Rahim believes that the best way to cut through the hype around AI is for partners to focus on real use cases and deployments.

Juniper Networks comes to the AI networking game with its market-leading Juniper Mist offering. The Mist AI engine has paid itself off in spades for the networking specialist. Juniper took the top spot in the “Leaders” category in the Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Wired and Wireless LAN Infrastructure from research firm Gartner released in March. At the same time, the pending blockbuster deal for Juniper to be acquired by Hewlett Packard Enterprise for $14 billion is expected to boost competition with networking market heavyweight Cisco and further highlights the relevance of AI-native networking.

Juniper’s expansion of AI across its entire portfolio—Wi-Fi, switching and data center—is resonating with partners who are looking for a technology vendor on the cutting edge, Juniper’s global channel chief Gordon Mackintosh told CRN last month. And the deal between Juniper and HPE, if completed, will be a disruptive growth play for Juniper Networks, according to the company’s executives.

[Related: Juniper Networks CEO: HPE-Juniper Combo Will Clear ‘Cluttered’ AI Networking Space]

While there’s undoubtedly a lot of hype around AI, that doesn’t mean the opportunity doesn’t have legs for partners, Rahim said. To cut through some of the “noise” when evaluating different providers, partners should look at vendors’ real-life use cases, he added.

“There’s a lot of talk about AI and it can be very confusing. It’s a cluttered space. I think the best thing that customers and partners can do is to look at actual examples of deployments. And more importantly, the value that has been delivered as a result of these AI-based deployments for our customers,” he said.

By employing AI across its networking portfolio, Juniper has been able to reduce the time to deployment of new solutions, drastically eliminate the number of trouble tickets, and accelerate the time to identify issues and proactively address issues before they start to impact the customer experience, Rahim said.

“Ultimately, there are a lot of customers that we have that are willing to tell that story,” he said.

These stories are helping Juniper separate itself from the pack and from “PowerPoint AI,” or the stories that other vendors in the industry are telling around AI without providing actual use cases to back it up.

Unlike Juniper Networks or HPE, networking rival Cisco Systems is approaching AI from an observability and security-first angle. But the former is just one part of the AI strategy, Rahim said.

“From a competitive standpoint, I know there’s a lot of noise out there about the importance of observability. The ability to tap into telemetry that’s coming from the various different parts of the network. But I really do think that this is just a part of the overall puzzle,” Rahim said.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper Networks has been collecting data for years and storing the data in a common cloud platform that spans the different parts of network, including across wireless, wired, WAN and security, to give insights to IT professionals where and when they need them. That’s different compared to some of its rivals that collect data in silos, he said.

And while data is an important ingredient, data collection is only a part of the problem, Rahim said.

“Not everybody recognizes how big a lift this is and what needs to be done to truly translate that data into amazing value for our customers. We have embedded data scientists in strategic parts of the organization that can learn and ultimately program that capability into the AI engine so that we can streamline and improve the experience for our customers. Just take customer support, for example. We have embedded data scientists in to the customer support organization that sits right next to the folks that are taking the calls and resolving problems for our customers so that once we understand the issues that occur, that gets built into the AI ops capabilities and into the AIOps technology and that translates into proactively solving all such problems in the future so that humans don’t even need to be involved,” he said.

Empowering Partners in AI Networking

Juniper Networks has been ahead of its peers in AI networking thanks to its Mist AI engine, the technology it acquired from Mist Systems in 2019 for $405 million, as evidenced by its placement on the most recent Gartner Magic Quadrant report and the pending acquisition by HPE. The company is also ahead in terms of the resources its offering partners interested in building out their own AI practices.

The company four years ago introduced an AI specialization for its channel partners. Channel partners that have invested or co-invested with Juniper on the AI-driven enterprise opportunity, specifically partners in the company’s Elite Plus program, saw their revenue grow 43 percent year-over-year last year, Rahim added.

“The specialization has been in place ever since we really started to see success in our AIOps Mist space that has been growing leaps and bounds over the years,” he said. “We would not have been able to achieve the success we did achieve without, of course, great technology, but without the partners that have embraced this technology and the solutions, invested in the specialization, and ultimately taken it to customers around the world.”

Juniper additionally has recently rolled out a program for partners to operate AI-assured managed services on behalf of their customers in a way that can help keep operational costs in check. While still a new program, Juniper has signed up 30 partners and it’s continuing to garner interest, Rahim said.

The company in March also revamped its well-known Juniper Partner Advantage (JPA) Program with a specific emphasis on AI and managed networking services.

“We’re just scratching the surface here in terms of what’s possible,” Rahim said.