Interview: Juniper CEO Shaygan Kheradpir

Shaygan Kheradpir

As Shaygan Kheradpir settles into his role as the new CEO of Juniper Networks, the former Barclay’s COO/CTO is looking to the future. 

You’ve been in the job for two weeks now, how are you finding it so far?

In an odd way it’s like coming back home – but on the other side of the market, rather than the customer side. Obviously, the language is familiar, the DNA is familiar. We’re just drilling in, getting more familiar with the team, the rhythm of the business.
They’ll take me through the fourth quarter earnings, but obviously I was not here officially. But I asked a lot of questions. So we sort of know who bought and what they bought, but not why did they buy it.
I know the world is changing, so we’re looking at what this new cocktail looks like from the buyer’s perspective, and what could have very big implications for us.

So you’ve put your own stamp on the company already—are partners excited about the new direction?

You know it’s funny? I haven’t seen a single partner who didn’t say, ‘Yeah, let’s talk tomorrow.’ They get it because the partners are really close to the customers—they see and feel and touch this stuff all day long. So we’re really pushing at an open door.

Retaining this partner focus seems to be a big part of where you’re pushing Juniper?

I think in these times when things are changing so quickly, the partners have become so much more important. They understand who the customer is. It’s like crossing a river. We have a clear point of view of what the other side of the river looks like, and we know how to build the bridge generally, but the biggest thing is how we collectively get the customers onto the bridge.
The information that the partners have is essential to making it happen.

With networking going through so many changes, such as SDN, the future is all unchartered—has it been quite hard to develop a long term strategy when no one’s been here before?

There are so many different customer types. You’ve got traditional service providers, cable companies, web 2.0 companies, you have enterprises—some who are beginning to behave like an SP, and then you have classic enterprise. So you look at the first four categories, and when you zoom out—what are these people all trying to do? They’re all trying to build the cloud.
Of course, we help and support the customers who are cloud providers, but there’s also a whole set of other customers who for whatever reason are not going there.
So who’s going to help them build their cloud? I think this is where the forces are amassing—cloud builders. So it all falls right in the sweet spot for Juniper and its partners.

Juniper has seen quite a bit of senior staff turnover in 2012 and 2013—is that an advantage for you starting a new direction, or symptomatic of problems in Juniper?

I am new here, I’ve only been here two weeks. But what I do see is a lot of experienced people. I think on the channel side I have senior leaders with some 40 years of experience from all over the industry.
And attrition, sometimes it just comes with the territory, and sometimes it opens up the fresh air for the others to move up. So I haven’t been here for the last year or the year before, but the team that’s on the ground here looks to me to be quite experienced.
There aren’t that many companies that can pull off this kind of a show with this many partners.

External sales strategies aside—where do you want Juniper to be in 12 months’ time?

I think that at the top levels to make sure that we are all acting as one Juniper. This may sound easy, but there are a lot of moving parts here—to focus our entire company around our customers, and really pull in our great ‘go to market’ people with our awesome ‘art of the possible’ people.
To help our customers, to start building that bridge of clouds and high IQ networks, and getting them on the bridge. There is a lot of opportunity in 2014 for businesses. Typically it starts with the smart buyers, and then the rest will follow.
Five years from now this new market will all be normalised. All the methods and procedures we are creating will be well known and replicated, but that’s the plan, that’s our opportunity.

So you see these ‘High IQ’ networks as your key market differentiator, enough to push you ahead of Cisco and other rivals?

Everyone’s trying to build clouds. Traditionally if you had told people about the MX router the image that would come up is wireline service provider. But now you see customers all buying the exact same stuff—the PTXs, the MXs and the SRXs and so forth. Everybody is in all these high-end segments, and they all want to build clouds.
From the customer perspective, hardware is not how they look at it anymore. They don’t look at it and wonder—am I going to buy security, and then switching, and then routing, and then transport. They just say, I want to build a cloud with these attributes: It can’t go down, it can’t get hacked, it has to have multi-tenancy, it has to be open framework architecture, it has to scale out. That’s how customers think about it and that’s how we now think about it.
Most of these attributes are carrier class characteristics. We’ve just fast forwarded in time to new technology, and who has that? Juniper. We are a carrier-class company.

Last words?

I’m a big believer in focus around the customer. We want a disciplined execution around business fundamentals. Execution with a no excuses mentality. That focus is a big deal.

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