Juniper promises to hide network complexity

Juniper Networks CEO Rami Rahim on the company's ‘Engineering Simplicity’ mantra

A year on from unveiling his new vision for the company, Juniper Networks CEO Rami Rahim was in Australia this week to explain ‘Engineering Simplicity’ to the company’s Australian customers at Juniper’s Nxtwork events in Sydney and Melbourne.

Rahim initially detailed ‘Engineering Simplicity’ in a December 2017 blog post: “In 2018 we’re getting back to basics with a focus on Engineering Simplicity. This is more than a new marketing tagline, it’s an acknowledgement that in today’s complex world, the thing that impedes our collective progress is complexity.”

He told Computerworld that the growth the company had enjoyed in networking over the past decade had come at the expenses of a greater level of complexity in networking.

“[Engineering Simplicity] is a combination of two things: a recognition that the biggest problem in networking today is achieving simplicity, and a recognition that the only way to solve for simplicity is by having a deep level of engineering acumen to solve the problem holistically,” he said.

However, he said this not mean simplification in the underlying technology, but rather hiding that complexity from the customer.

“You cannot wave away complexity, you cannot wish it away; you can only shift it. We have made a commitment at Juniper to shift complexity away from our customers and on to us,” the CEO said.

“It is not case shift that the only thing that matters for Juniper is simplicity. It is all of what we have delivered to our customers around scale and performance efficiency and programmability and then adding a new dimension around simplicity of operation.”

While much has been made in recent times of the power of intent-based networking to simplify the configuration and operation of networks, Rahim said it was yet to achieve this promise.

“Intent-based networking is great thing, but we have to deliver on it and we have not done that yet, although I think we have made strides.”

However Rahim said considerable progress had been made in the year since he unveiled Engineering Simplicity: “We have looked at all our product offerings, our documentation, our marketing literature and made meaningful improvements but we are just now in year two on the cusp of introducing some ground breaking new solutions.”

He gave as an example Contrail Enterprise Multicloud, which he described as “the epitome of simplicity applied to the next chapter in networking around multicloud,” and “a wonderful example of our commitment to engineering simplicity.”

He said: “Every CIO you talk to wants to move applications and workloads to some combination of private cloud and multiple public cloud, but without dealing with the complexity of a multicloud environment.

“Google, Azure, AWS all have their own experiences. And CIOs need a security policy that gives them the peace of mind as they move to this multicloud environment.

“Contrail Enterprise Multicloud abstracts away that complexity. It is a single software solution to overlay and underlay management of virtual machines, bare metal and containers. It supports intent based policy creation across networking and a heterogeneous environment that supports Juniper and other networking infrastructure.”

Corporate structure simplified

Rahim, who became CEO in 2014, is a 20-year veteran of Juniper. He was employee number 32, hired in 1997 to work on Juniper's first major product, the M40 core router, and he has applied the mantra of simplicity to Juniper’s company structure.

He told Computerworld: “It took me a number of years to flatten the organisation and do away with siloed business units. The reason I did this is because the industry is moving fast and those who can move faster than the industry will win. If every decision you make you have to convince 10 general managers to follow suit you will lose.

“Secondly the technology is changing: the line between what have traditionally been separate products is changing. Routers and switches are blurring into a common set of products and you do not want organisational boundaries to slow you down from making the important product decisions that reflect this change.”

When asked how the company accommodated this harmonised product approach to the needs of different markets, Rahim said: “We have domain leads responsible for understanding and defining the products for each domain and translating those back to a common engineering function that straddles all domains and allows us to build products we can leverage across all domains

“For example our universal chassis supports different personalities for high performance switching, programmable edge functions and core routing functions. It is a single product with different line card options and different software features.”

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