INTEROP - Juniper CEO urges building flexible networks

Businesses need to embrace service-oriented architectures, outsourced services and flexible-network infrastructure to respond effectively to uncertain commercial forces, said Juniper Chairman and CEO Scott Kriens, who delivered a keynote address at Interop Tuesday.

"They need to create [an] environment that can respond to changing risks," he told a moderately sized audience before the show floor opened.

Investing in long-term service contracts and network gear that allows for growth as needed without massive investment up front makes businesses nimble enough for when demand increases or declines, he said.

If network resources are shared -- both between corporations and within organizations -- the fixed cost of ownership drops, making it less expensive to operate in lean times, he said. Corporations can spend more in better times as demand grows for capacity, he says. "You can turn it up and turn it down," Kriens said.

He called this flexible network the on-time, real-time enterprise and says it is needed to support SOA effectively to meet business objectives. That requires a marriage of infrastructure, applications and security.

"We need to create opportunity or solve problems with IT investment," Kriens said. "We need to adopt technology to develop business advantages . . . . IT should be considered a competitive advantage, not a cost center."

In corporate networking, businesses need to tie applications in with security infrastructure design so any application can be protected without special provisioning for any particular one. And that infrastructure should be simple, predictable, standardized and customer oriented, so it performs its technical tasks and helps businesses reach business goals, he said.

Just as the infrastructure itself should be flexible to adapt to shifting application needs quickly, businesses as a whole should be willing to adapt rapidly to customer demand by partnering with others for expertise they need. This is particularly true of networking technology companies, he said. "Vendors need to partner with other vendors, but they need to define boundaries between vendors and respect them," Kriens said.

He cited as an example Juniper's partnership with Symantec that blends Juniper's networking experience with Symantec's security software for protecting networks from malicious behavior coming from devices attached to them.

Kriens urged customers to forge partnerships with network vendors as a way to map a long-term strategy because experience shows that doing so can save up to 25 percent in costs over the alternative of network growth being tactically driven by whatever demand arises today.

At the same time, business IT leaders should be prepared to pay for the performance they seek. He cited a CIMI, study that says only 20 percent of organizations have adequate infrastructure to support SOA architectures that afford long-term network adaptability, so infrastructure investment is essential. "I don't know how to do good, fast and cheap all at the same time," he said.

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