Juniper Networks CEO: We're In Execution Mode

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At the end of the first day's general session at this year's Juniper Americas Partner Conference in Phoenix, Kevin Johnson could be seen relishing the moment.

He and a parade of his top lieutenants had just finished telling more than 1,000 assembled Juniper partners -- 390 in person, and more than double that virtually -- how Juniper Network's recent acquisitions, product releases and marketing exposure are driving partner opportunities and Juniper profitability like never before. Triumph was in the air, and the session's exit music -- "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones -- had Johnson visibly fired up enough to be seen mouthing a few, punctuated verses in between pressing the flesh with a steady stream of smiling well-wishers.

The CEO of Juniper Networks is pretty pumped these days. And it's tough to deny the affable Johnson, now deep into his third year at Juniper's helm, his moment.

Juniper is battling for networking, infrastructure and security market share from a nimbler stance than bigger, bulkier competitors like Cisco and HP, and has delivered on some of its most ambitious product releases in years while also fattening up its executive ranks, putting some muscle behind Juniper's marketing, and making strategic acquisitions to complement what Johnson says is an expanding, $1 billion R&D effort.

Johnson joined CRN Senior Editor Chad Berndtson for an exclusive interview in Phoenix earlier this month, tackling everything from Juniper's acquisition appetite to software-centric partnerships, the differences between Juniper and Cisco and HP, the service provider-enterprise mix, and his stacked executive team. Excerpts of the conversation follow.

So, Kevin, one of the busiest years in Juniper history and it seems like it's going to continue to be that way. New products -- QFabric, packet cores -- executive appointments, acquisitions, everything. Partners like it, the aggressiveness of it. But it's a lot for them to absorb all at once. What do you want them to understand about your strategic direction right now?

I think a couple of big takeaways. The market trends of cloud computing and the mobile Internet are creating demands on the network that require architecture changes and a new network approach. And so, number one is understanding the market trends. Number two is understanding the investments we're making. I happen to believe that in these types of transitions and inflection points in tech, that's the opportunity for innovation to have massive impact and help transform the landscape of how computing is done.

The investments we're making in R&D, the investments we're making in sales and marketing, the investments we're making in partners are aligned with these trends in mobile Internet and cloud computing, and add up to massive opportunity. At the end of the day, if partners look and say, 'Wow, we see these market trends and we love what you're doing' and the innovation and architecture and technology and marketing and awareness and investments are there, I think we've accomplished what we hoped to do.

How would you define a strategically aligned Juniper partner? Be it a reseller or integrator or service provider, you have a reasonably broad partner mix now and to judge from the presentations at the conference, you want them to expand beyond what they've been doing -- whether that's as a security specialist, or a networking reseller background or something else -- to do other things with Juniper. Is that what a strategic partner looks like now?

Every partner has their own business plan and their own strategy and that's perfectly fine. The fact that partners understand what's going to make them profitable in their business, we're respectful of the way they want to run that business. The core of what gets us strategically aligned is a common vision sharing of what the new network is and what it can do for customers. From there, some partners might choose to focus on security, or service providers, or data center, and we want to enable them all to be wildly successful.

We're working hard to create opportunities that expand their revenue and profit generation in other businesses. Partners might look at traditional reselling of network technology, and I think the latest surveys show that Juniper provides the best margin and profit opportunity for partners that want to do that. We can also open up services opportunities that add to that. The third element is partners who want to innovate on software. We provide the vision, innovation and a full range of choices that the partner can make.

NEXT: Juniper Partners Need Software Competency

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