& cplSiteName &

Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks

Light Reading
Interview
Light Reading
7/23/2003
50%
50%

Bobby Johnson, president and CEO of Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), knows success.

He founded Centillion Networks, an ATM switch startup that was bought by Bay Networks in 1995 for $140 million. At the time, this was one of the highest prices paid for a networking startup in Silicon Valley. The company had already reached profitability after only 18 months on the scene, says Johnson. Bay Networks, which later was bought by Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), ended up selling over $1 billion worth of gear based on the Centillion products and technology, he contends.

Foundry epitomizes Johnson's hard-driving style. He brought the Layer 2-7 Gigabit Ethernet switching company to profitability within 18 months of starting it. It later launched a blockbuster IPO conveniently timed with the peak of Wall Street's technology bubble, in late 1999. Shares of the company on its first day of trading rose 525 percent from the offering price and closed at around $166 per share. That gave the company a market capitalization of nearly $9 billion on its first day of trading.

Not bad for a guy who started out as an SNA programmer at IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) back in the early 1980s. During the quarter century he has been in the networking industry, he’s been involved with some of the hottest technologies of his time, including early personal computing, ATM/Token Ring switching, Gigabit Ethernet switching, and now 10-Gigabit Ethernet switching. Whenever the market has shifted, Johnson has managed to change course.

Of course, things aren't as sunny as they were back in 1999 (see Stock Watch: Foundry Networks). The company’s stock is down a tad from a high of $212. But recently the company has deftly managed its way back to profitability and growth (see Foundry Gets a Fed Boost). Meanwhile, Foundry has been able to expand its headcount, increase its revenues, and develop new products.

Johnson is the first to admit Foundry’s perseverance through tough economic times hasn’t been easy. But so far, it appears to be a survivor. While competitors like Enterasys Networks Inc. (NYSE: ETS) and Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) continue to report losses, Foundry is reporting profits and growth. And judging from Johnson's future product plans, he has no intention of falling behind on the R&D front.

The former Black Belt karate master says he has little time for leisure activities such as golf or tennis. He’s a hard worker and expects nothing less from his employees. That’s one reason Foundry foots the bill for takeout dinners every night for its engineers.

Light Reading was lucky to get some time with this busy executive. Check out the interview and see what Johnson has to say about:

— Interviewed by R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, and Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(11)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
hyperunner
50%
50%
hyperunner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:43:28 PM
re: Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks
I always heard that BJ had an enormous ego, and this interview certainly bears this out.

LR: "When do you think anyone will start selling it?" (10 GigE)

BJ: "IGÇÖve been selling 10-Gbit/s Ethernet for 18 months..."

You, Bobby? All on your lonesome? You don't have a sales force or a bunch of channel partners then?

BJ: (On working in a division of NET) "I took the division to profitability within one year."

Jeez, Bobby, then all those other folks who probably worked their asses off were just overhead eh?

BJ: (On Silicon Valley funding) "And there was Centillion Networks, which was the company I started."

Now hold on there Bobby, didn't good ol' Earle have something to do with Centillion?

..and my favourite...

BJ: "I had just came from a company shipping the premier ATM switch."

But wait, aren't you talking about Centillion? Centillion...the "premier ATM switch"? Is this some new interpretation of the word "premier" I have not previously encountered?

OK, my French has never been worth a damn, but I'm pretty sure "premier" means "first" - right? So maybe the Centillion was the first ATM switch, and then folks figured out how to make them right after that.

hR.


Scott Raynovich
50%
50%
Scott Raynovich,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/4/2012 | 11:43:18 PM
re: Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks
Hmm, well that's a simplistic take...

I thought Bobby had some very interesting things to say. I'd never met him in person before, so this interview was interesting. His demeanor seemed more calm than some of the Bobby Johnson myths that circulate about his volatility (maybe we didn't ask the right questions?).

I hope folks will read the interview because he makes some very interesting points about product roadmaps and the historical development of the networking market. The lesson, I think, is just when everybody thinks the world is flat and nothing will ever grow again, we're likely to get slammed with some giant technology shift that will change everything.
new_light
50%
50%
new_light,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:43:16 PM
re: Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks
Believe me, everything you've heard about BJ is true...very true. I know from personal experience, the guy is a loose cannon and a bully, if you allow him to bully you.
Personally I feel sorry for the people who have to work there because of this piss poor economy. I was fortunate to have the right skill set which allowed me to run like hell when I realized what a hell hole I was working in.
fbailin
50%
50%
fbailin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:43:16 PM
re: Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks
Scott,
Your interview was right on.
Also your take on Bobby.
He is a hard driving boss but ingenious with his thinking about the future of his product line.
I know this having worked for him and Earl as an Executive Recruiter during the start up phases of both Centillion and Foundry and prior to that when he led Tri Data systems.
An uncomprimising ceo who deserves his due.
enlightenedReader
50%
50%
enlightenedReader,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:43:14 PM
re: Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks
In the same thread as that of new_light, I heard that most of their ASIC team left, either voluntarily or involuntarily. So who are left to design the Terathon ASICs for Foundry? Did they farm out the ASIC design to Broadcom?
hyperunner
50%
50%
hyperunner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:43:09 PM
re: Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks
Hi Scott,

My turn to apologise. I often complain about the effect anonymity has on the attitude of the folks who post on boards like this, and here am I falling into the same trap!

I just got the impression from his excessive use of the personal pronoun that he was, perhaps, over-emphasising the role he played in these events, and more specifically not crediting the large number of people who must have contributed to his success over the years. I'd stress that this is not an uncommon attitude among the "Type A" serial entrepreneurs we've seen emerging in the past few years.

I agree, the story was pretty interesting - well I read the whole thing so that's a good indicator. Good job!

hR.
new_light
50%
50%
new_light,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:42:56 PM
re: Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks
Can you say:
Marvel...
PacketGuy
50%
50%
PacketGuy,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:42:52 PM
re: Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks
new_light:

Don't feel sorry for the remaining Foundry employees. Bobby was extremely generous with option grants in the $4-$6 range. Sounds like you couldn't take the heat of an environment that demands performance and holds you accountable. When I look at my W2, I find it comical that you would pity me.
freethinker
50%
50%
freethinker,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:42:42 PM
re: Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks
And when did he get into the computer business?

What the heck - let's say it was Burroughs, which became Unisys.

Whatever happened to fact checkers (and spellcheckers, for that matter)?
Iipoed
50%
50%
Iipoed,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:42:24 PM
re: Bobby Johnson, Foundry Networks
Having been apart of Foundry from 98 to 02 I feel somewhat justified in responding to some of the negative posts.
Sure BJ was a hard driver, of course no one worked more or harder than he did 7 days per week. keep in mind he already had plenty of millions before Foundry.

As to treatment of employees in the early days he had the foresight to realize the window was small to make a successful impact in the gigabit arena. If he did not demand the committment of his employees to make Foundry a great company it would not be where it is today.

Many early employees have left, left with millions however. Again a vision that BJ had that employees that performed with dedication and committment would be very well rewarded.

For Foundry to continue to evolve and compete with Cisco they must believe and and execute in a manner that allows Foundry to be accepted as the primary alternative to Cisco (in a specific space of course)

You can say what you want about BJ but you cannot say he did not have a vision, execute his vision and establish an organization that is a benchmark for all future IPOs.


Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
NEXT COURSE
Wednesday, August 3, 1:00PM EDT
The Central Office Re-Architected as a Data Center
Guru Parulkar, Executive Director, Open Networking Research Center, Open Networking Lab
UPCOMING COURSE SCHEDULE
Wednesday, August 10, 1:00PM EDT
Telcos & Open Source 101
Phil Robb, Senior Technical Director, OpenDaylight
Friday, August 12, 1:00PM EDT
The Role of Open Source in NFV
Jim Fagan, Director, Cloud Practice, Telstra
Wednesday, August 17, 1:00PM EDT
Using Open Source for Data Centers and Cloud Services
Roz Roseboro, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
in association with:
From The Founder
In the first episode of a four-part series, Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders and Calix President and CEO Carl Russo drive around town discussing the disruptive mega-changes in the communications industry and where hope lies for service providers to meet the escalating demands of the cloud.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Fujitsu Sales Leader Shares Lessons Learned

7|27|16   |   5:12   |   (0) comments


As Fujitsu's only female sales leader, Annie Bogue knows the importance of asking for what you want, being flexible (she's been relocated five times), keeping a meticulous calendar, 'leaning in,' working harder than everyone else around you, being aware and more.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
VeEX Test & Measurement Solutions

7|25|16   |   08:57   |   (0) comments


Cyrille Morelle, president and CEO of VeEX Inc., talks test and measurement with Light Reading's Steve Saunders at BCE 2016. This includes innovative products such as VeSion Cloud-Based platform for network monitoring; MTTplus Modular Test platform for Access, Business, Carrier Ethernet, Transport and Core services; and OPX-BOX+ for Fiber Optics.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX: Live From BCE 2016

7|25|16   |   03:20   |   (0) comments


VeEX's Senior Director of Business Development, Perry Romano, explains how VeEX provides tools to help install, maintain, monitor and manage network infrastructure efficiently and effectively. The portfolio of products on display include the RXT-6000, MTTplus and TX300s.
LRTV Custom TV
Real-Time Telemetry & Analytics for Intelligent SDN Orchestration

7|25|16   |   03:09   |   (0) comments


Packet Design CEO Scott Sherwood discusses how real-time network telemetry and analytics are enabling a new breed of SDN orchestration applications.
From the Founder
The Russo Report: Driving Disruption

7|25|16   |   07:44   |   (0) comments


In the first episode of a four-part series, Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders and Calix President and CEO Carl Russo drive around town discussing the disruptive mega-changes in the communications industry and where hope lies for service providers to meet the escalating demands of the cloud.
LRTV Custom TV
NetScout: Maximizing Enterprise Cloud for Digital Transformation

7|20|16   |   04:53   |   (0) comments


Light Reading Editor Mitch Wagner talks to NetScout CMO Jim McNiel about maximizing the benefits of enterprise cloud and digital transformation while minimizing potential pitfalls with a proper monitoring and instrumentation strategy.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Ciena's VP Offers a Career Crash Course

7|20|16   |   4:14   |   (2) comments


How did Ciena's Vice President of Sales, Angela Finn, carve out her career path? Simple, she tells WiC. She stayed true to her company, customers and principles. She shares her advice for women on how to be authentic and credible, as well as for companies that want to make a real change to their culture and practices.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV in 2016: Part 2 – Climbing the Virtualization Maturity Curve

7|19|16   |   06:56   |   (0) comments


Many of the initial use case implementations are single-vendor and self-contained. The industry is still climbing the virtualization maturity curve, needing further clarity and stability in the NFV infrastructure (NFVi) and greater availability and choice of virtualized network functions (VNFs). Interoperability between NFVis and VNFs from different vendors ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Versa Networks' Kumar Mehta on SD-WAN Managed Services

7|19|16   |     |   (0) comments


In Silicon Valley, Steve Saunders sits down with Versa's Kumar Mehta for an interview focused on why service providers are building SD-WAN managed services, and how Versa's telco customers are innovating.
LRTV Custom TV
Juniper Networks & The Evolution of NFV

7|19|16   |   06:01   |   (0) comments


Senior Juniper Networks executives talk to Light Reading Founder & CEO Steve Saunders about NFV developments and the recent independent evaluation by test lab EANTC of Juniper's Cloud CPE solution.
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink Goes Beyond Managed WiFi

7|19|16   |     |   (0) comments


CenturyLink's managed WiFi allows enterprises, such as retailers and resorts, to track guest WiFi usage in order to help them better communicate with customers.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T Launches Network Functions on Demand

7|17|16   |   05:26   |   (0) comments


Roman Pacewicz, Senior Vice President, Offer Management & Service Integration, AT&T Business Solutions, discusses the operator's launch of its Network Functions on Demand service.
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
September 27, 2016, Philadelphia, PA
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 6-8, 2016,
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Five of the Top 10 most targeted countries in Check Point Software Technologies' global Malware & Threat Index for Q1 2016 are in Africa.
Hot Topics
Verizon Sports Big Plans for Yahoo
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 7/26/2016
Verizon's Next With VNFs
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 7/21/2016
Yahoo Signing Off in $4.83B Sale to Verizon
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 7/25/2016
Ericsson Board Has Been Asleep at the Wheel – Consultant
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 7/25/2016
Ericsson Ejects CEO Vestberg
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 7/25/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
I've enjoyed interviewing many interesting people since I rejoined Light Reading, but William A. "Bill" Owens certainly takes the biscuit, as we say where I come from.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Our world has evolved through innovation from the Industrial Revolution of the 1740s to the information age, and it is now entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technology. Technology is driving a paradigm shift in the way digital solutions deliver a connected world, changing the way we live, communicate and provide solutions. It can have a powerful impact on how we tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. In this radio show, Caroline Dowling, President of Communications Infrastructure & Enterprise Computing at Flex, will join Women in Comms Director Sarah Thomas to discuss the impact technology has on society and how it can be a game-changer across the globe; improving lives and creating a smarter world. Dowling, a Cork, Ireland, native and graduate of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program, will also discuss her experience managing an international team focused on innovation in an age of high-speed change.