Juniper CEO: Innovation Trumps Market Uncertainty To Drive Partner Success

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The last time CRN sat down with Juniper Networks CEO Kevin Johnson, in April 2011, Johnson affirmed that Juniper was in "execution mode" -- firing on all cylinders in technology, sales, marketing and partner enablement and fresh off several acquisitions that were poised to expand Juniper's growth into key areas.

Fast forward to January 2012, and Johnson and his company have a few bumps and bruises to show for their year: a round of layoffs in the fall of 2011, earnings disappointments that led to a revised forecast for Juniper's fourth quarter of 2011, a downgrade from the "leaders" quadrant to the "challengers" quadrant in Gartner's recent Magic Quadrant for enterprise firewalls, and frustration on the part of Juniper partners and customers over Juniper's response to technical flaws in several Juniper SRX services gateways.

That Juniper is growing, however, is an inarguable fact. Johnson touted year-over-year growth of 15 percent heading into calendar 2012 -- short of a hoped-for 20 percent but nothing to sniff at -- and at Juniper's global partner conference in Las Vegas this month, he and his team set about explaining to partners why their investments in Juniper programs and Juniper products would continue to pay off in the new year.

Johnson joined CRN in Las Vegas for a wide-ranging discussion of Juniper's progress. The interview took place during Juniper's quiet period -- Juniper is scheduled to report Q4 earnings on Thursday -- so some subjects were off the table. Excerpts follow:

A lot to talk about Kevin but we'll start current. You had an earnings warning this month tied to what you described as weak demand in service provider spending, and the speculation on Juniper, particularly from the analysts, is concern for the mix of service provider and enterprise business. Are you happy with that balance of roughly two-thirds service provider, one-third enterprise? Do you need to change it?

Our strategy is to be an innovator focused as a pure-play on networking. For every dollar we invest on R&D to innovate, we create solutions applicable to both service providers and enterprise customers. So it makes complete sense that we would continue to innovate in the domain of service provider and enterprise, because it's basically the same set of products. You take our MX edge routers, for example, we sell them to service providers on the edge of their networks, and we sell them to enterprises to connect their data centers for the cloud. I think strategically we are focused as a pure-play and as an innovator in the domain of networking, and I think that's the right thing for this company.

So the mix is OK the way it is?

Look, the mix is what it is. We're in a quiet period so I can't comment on Q4, but the strategy is right. We innovate in the domain of networking in a way that has a high degree of relevance in customer value in both service provider and enterprise, and we continue to grow in both those sectors as we continue to evolve as a company.

But it's not concerning that you have to respond to the vagaries of when service providers have a tough quarter? 'Overexposed' is the word the analysts use.

We're in a quiet period, so I'm just not going to comment on that. But we love our service provider customers. It's the heritage of the company and we're going to remain focused on service provider customers even as we expand into the enterprise sector.

Next: Juniper's Expanding Value Proposition In Software

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