SDN SPECIAL: Juniper jumps ahead

03 September 2013 | Richard Irving


Arguably, the biggest single SDN-inspired corporate revamp so far has not been at a telco at all, but at an equipment vendor.

In a bold move to tackle the potential commoditisation of network hardware head on, Juniper Networks has unveiled what it calls its “oh wow” strategy – the Juniper Software Advantage. If the future of networking lies in software, the company rightly concludes, then Juniper needs to overhaul its sales and marketing effort accordingly.

Out will go the old way of inextricably linking software and hardware together on a device and selling that device and back-up support in a single package; in comes a new system that unbundles the software from the hardware.

As Juniper's Nigel Stephenson explains, it represents a huge cultural shift for the company.

“Essentially, we are separating out how you purchase and support different parts of the network. Under the new licensing arrangement, you can move the software around your network any way you want and we will continue to support it, even if you no longer want the hardware that it originally came with,” he says.

In the past, the company sold hardware with regimented support contracts; in the future it will be selling software pegged to network applications that may be used to varying degrees.

That’s good news for telcos, which will pay Juniper according to how much customers use the new apps, but bad news for Juniper’s salesmen, who no longer have benchmarks against which they can be remunerated.

Talks are continuing with Juniper’s staff ahead of implementation of the new licensing model later this year.

“Obviously we face a huge shift in mindset, but we have to recognise that the way customers are buying technology, and the way we are contracting to support that technology, is rapidly changing,” Stephenson says.

Some observers point to the strategy as the continuing “Microsoft-isation” of Juniper, and it is true that both Bob Muglia – executive VP of Software Solutions and the man charged with overseeing the company’s SDN initiative – and his boss, CEO Kevin Johnson, were both former big hitters at the software house.

But that strategy is under intense scrutiny following the shock retirement of Johnson in late July. All eyes will be on Johnson’s replacement for vindication of the new system.