Three years ago I decided to go from building mission-critical global networks to building network technologies for mission-critical networks with the team at Juniper Networks. Two very different worlds. It wasn’t easy, but I have evolved. For the record, my heart is still that of a network operator. 20+ years at the front lines doesn’t wash off in 3 years. Someday I hope to go back to being an operator, when I have exhausted my usefulness on this side of the line, or maybe before that.
One of the perks of being a customer is that I could say whatever was on my mind about networking tech. Not so as a vendor. So I chose to stay low and focus on trying to align what was on the truck to what I knew operators like me needed. I feel that I can be more open now that we’ve reached the bend.
I’ve had the opportunity to be in the middle of getting some important things unstuck at Juniper. The Juniper of 3, 2 and 1 year ago were quite different from the one today, marked by decreasing inertia. Over that time I lit the fire on three key pivots towards executing to the needs of DC operators. Specifically, the pivot to a strong DC focus in the NOS, the solidifying of our network design strategy for [multi-service] DC, and getting a proper DC fabric controller effort in motion. They’re all connected, and together complete the pieces of the DC fabric puzzle. Three years in.
My respect to all the Juniper friends that turned opportunities into realities. I'm a big believer that real change starts at the talent level and, with the right conditions, percolates up and across. Juniper has talent. Now with the right game in play and the right organizational alignment at Juniper, good things are set to happen.
They say ideas and talk are cheap without execution, so having influenced these out of a virtual existence into reality is my key result, and their positive impact on Juniper. Driving big change isn’t new to me. I built the financial industries most venerate IP network from the ground up, and been at the forefront of multiple key shifts in the networking industry, including having understood the need for, and bringing EVPN into existence, which I write about here (the parts I can talk about publicly).
It’s almost impossible to get a market to move into a new vision with the push of a button. Smart companies start from where their customers are. The most successful tech companies are the ones that have the right vision, and can navigate their customers onto the right path toward that vision. The right path pays special attention to the “how”, and not just the “what” and “why”. The market recognizes a good thing when it sees it. The one that works best for it. For a vendor, the right path opens up to new opportunities. This has always been my focus. From the beginning, EVPN itself was meant to be a stepping stone in a path, not a destination -- "a bridge from here to there". As I like to say, value lies not in the right destination, but in the right journey. The destination always changes in tech, so the right vision today merely serves as a good vector today for the inevitably perpetual journey.
Now I hope to resume sharing my perspective here about topics such as, the right stages for evolving the network operator role, EVPN in the DC, pragmatic SDN, and other random thoughts that I have the scars to talk about, and with the new insights I have gained over the past 3 years.
I’m not a prolific writer so don’t expect too much all at once. :-)