Juniper CEO talks software, recent challenges, and key future directions

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Juniper's leader Kevin Johnson explains how the company is working to develop software defined networking, grow system security, and expedite cloud computing

Juniper Networks had a challenging 2012 as new product cycles were slow to take hold and global economic conditions took a toll on sales. The company also undertook a restructuring that saw 500 positions cut and the departure of four executive vice presidents. As the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company looks to re-energize its business, particularly with an eye towards enterprises and data centers, CEO Kevin Johnson shared his lessons learned in leading Juniper since 2008, as well as what's ahead for the company in a discussion with IDG Enterprise Chief Content Officer John Gallant and Network World Managing Editor Jim Duffy. In this installment of the IDG Enterprise CEO Interview Series, Johnson also shared his thoughts on the hot topic of software-defined networks (SDN), Juniper's role in enabling cloud and competing against the industry's 800-pound gorilla, Cisco.

Customers are moving toward highly virtualized data centers, cloud services, hybrid cloud. In this context, why is Juniper a better strategic partner than, say, HP, Cisco, Brocade or another networking company?

The two key market trends are cloud computing and mobile Internet. Cloud computing can't be enabled unless you have a high-performance, reliable network that's connecting the users of services and applications to that data center and the compute and the storage layers within the data center. The heritage of Juniper is focused on innovation with a specific focus on high-performance networking, so tackling the most complicated problems of scale and performance and reliability in the network. If you're moving workloads from one data center to another or connecting thousands of storage and computing devices within a data center, our focus has been enabling solutions that solve the problems of scale and reliability.

Some of the key differentiators for Juniper are that we invest in R&D and we develop our own silicon that we use in many of our systems -- not all of them, but in many; silicon that has been purpose-built for different domains of the network and different areas of the network problem. No. 2, we focus on the software operating system that runs in the network. We've been very focused on Junos as a common software platform that runs across the product portfolio, which is something that helps customers better manage, configure and operate those systems. That ultimately leads to lower cost of ownership since it's a single operating system, yet still having the benefits of high performance through the silicon.

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