Juniper CEO: We're Uniquely Positioned To Be SDN Winner

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Juniper Networks has had better years, but CEO Kevin Johnson says the company is on good footing in 2013 and ready to prove its doubters wrong.

To wit, Juniper's slimmer following a restructuring, more pragmatic about how it needs to address key new product areas like its QFabric data center system and well-positioned to take advantage of what, to Johnson, is a major industry inflection point specific to software-defined networking (SDN).

Johnson joined CRN earlier this week before the start of Juniper's Global Partner Conference in Las Vegas to talk through Juniper's strategic priorities this year. Excerpts of the discussion follow.

Every company has an SDN strategy now. You're talking to CEOs, folks who actually have to buy this stuff. Are they ready for this conversation?

Well, certainly in the discussions I have with our larger service provider customers, it's very relevant. That's the core of our business, and it has to do with reducing cycle time on deployment of new services for customers. Our ability to do that -- to bring to a significant installed base of our routing infrastructure new software evolutions -- is very important. That's a discussion happening at the most senior levels of the large service provider customers.

On the enterprise side, it's also an important discussion at the CIO level within an IT organization. I think it has to do with the fact that they've virtualized most, if not all, of their applications, and if they're looking at a dynamic data center, the next opportunity they have is to look at the way the networks are architected. It is a big topic and on the minds of our customers, and on our minds as well.

From a hype-cycle perspective, are we going to see a similar vector with SDN to cloud where 2-3 years ago, customers were told they were going to move there, then the POCs began, then the sales?

We're in the hype cycle certainly. It's consistent with how a paradigm shift plays out in that the entire industry is full of enthusiasm and optimism around what a new technology can do; then you have to separate the hype from the substance, and then it takes engineering work plus a journey. You have to go and invent things and try things, and what happens is the industry starts to converge on a set of things that are real and impactful for customers.

I think we're going through that now. The hype cycle, frankly, started about a year ago. We're well into it now, and what you see from us, as a company, is that we've been very thoughtful about not just participating in the hype. We wanted to make sure we had clear substance and a clear view of what we were going to do with our engineering resources. So what we've been working on for the last nine months has had our engineering leaders defining the unique value proposition where this kind of technology can have most impact.

NEXT: Carriers And SDN

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