Cloud is the biggest trend impacting networking industry: Juniper CEO

The cloud is the single biggest trend that is impacting our industry and therefore our strategy today as a company, says Juniper CEO Rami Rahim


Juniper Networks CEO Rami Rahim. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
Juniper Networks CEO Rami Rahim. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Juniper Networks Inc., a global networking solutions provider with revenue of $4.8 billion in 2015, recently announced investment of $1 billion over the next five years in its India unit. The money will be spent on augmenting research and development (40% of its R&D resources are in India), sales and marketing functions, and other business operations.

Rami Rahim, an M.Sc. in electrical engineering from Stanford University and a Juniper veteran, has risen through the ranks to his current role of chief executive officer.

In an interview, he talks about the changing digital landscape, the evolution of software-defined networking and the impact of cloud computing. Excerpts:

Why did you feel the need to come up with another term, digital cohesion, when digital transformation already exists?

The idea behind digital cohesion is to paint a vision of the future that people can relate to. When you talk about some of the advances in technology, in networking for example, while our partners, customers and stakeholders understand it inherently, but for a broader set of population, it is a bit difficult to relate to because they are not in this business. So digital cohesion paints an exciting vision of the future around technology and applications playing an interesting and important part in our day-to-day lives, of how these will come together to create truly life-enhancing experiences. And then to distil it down to a set of technology barriers that must be overcome in order for that vision to become a reality. Doing this makes the motivation to overcome those barriers really compelling.

What will digital cohesion do that digital transformation won’t?

Digital transformation is typically around changes in business and technology, how these two come together to create new business opportunities through more agility and business efficiency. Digital cohesion is different: it’s coming together of applications and services to solve really interesting problems in the consumer and the business space. But both are important concepts.

You have envisioned a world in which self-assembling apps will provide predictive, personalized services to people. Don’t you think this will further increase the risk to personal privacy and data security?

Right, this is one of the big barriers to this future in which the applications are always on in the background, as the mega cloud providers and service providers will need to collect a lot of information to be able to act on it. That can only happen when a lot of thought has been put into privacy policies and cyber security. As more and more applications are going to be connected, each of those connections presents an opening for the bad actors to come in and compromise the network and thus user data. We believe it will require a fundamentally different architectural approach to do what is necessary to improve the overall security posture of the network.

What is the update on software-defined networking (SDN)?

Any new technology or architecture goes through a hype cycle and SDN has gone through that cycle. About a year or so back, SDN was touted as the answer to most networking problems but that clearly is not the case. One should understand that software has always played a very important role in networking. In the past, our software and hardware systems were very tightly integrated but now they are loosely coupled and we are already offering software separately. Also, networking-as-a-service will add more value to the domain.

At one point, Juniper was broad-basing its customer segment from telecom operators to other enterprises. But now with cloud coming up in a big way, most enterprises may not be buying networking gear at all. How is Juniper coping with this situation?

The cloud is the single biggest trend that is impacting our industry and therefore our strategy today as a company. There are many types of companies in the cloud market, including the mega cloud companies, software-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service players, co-location hosting providers and many others. This segment has been a very important part of our business and, over the past several years, revenue from these companies has double as a percentage of our total revenue. We are also helping telecom operators transform and grow their cloud, in addition to helping enterprises with a hybrid architecture in connecting their own data centres to the cloud.

The approaching Internet of Things (IoT) world and your vision of digital cohesion will put a lot of strain on networks. What role will Juniper play here?

I think IoT and 5G (fifth generation mobile technology) are both going to be cloud-native technologies. This means the services to the end consumers will be developed in a virtualized manner and delivered from a data centre. That is what we believe we are most suited for—to provide the cloud infrastructure and solutions for data centres, wide area networks and the software that helps our customers in tapping into the cloud data centres with ease and agility.

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