& 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: "IGve 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   >   >>
From The Founder
Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
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.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T: Creating Dynamic Networks to Meet Business Needs

5|26|17   |   4:24   |   (0) comments


As enterprises need more dynamic networks, service providers need to deliver on-demand, virtual services to meet those needs. AT&T is creating a networking fabric to mix-and-match SDN technologies for enterprise customers, says Roman Pacewicz, AT&T senior vice president for offer management and service integration, in an interview at Light Reading's
LRTV Interviews
EdgeConneX on Industry Headwinds & Tailwinds

5|26|17   |   2:41   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's Big Communications Event 2017, EdgeConneX CTO Don MacNeil discussed the value of partnerships in the digital world.
LRTV Documentaries
4 Steps Toward a Higher Network IQ

5|26|17   |     |   (0) comments


At the Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, EXFO CEO Philippe Morin explains how sensors and analytics can boost a network's intelligence and enable on-demand customer experiences. Find more BCE 2017 coverage here.
LRTV Interviews
BT's McRae Sheds Light on 4K Strategy

5|25|17   |   4:45   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's Big Communications Event 2017 in Austin, Texas, BT Group's Chief Network Architect Neil McRae talks about what it took for BT to broadcast live sports in 4K. Catch up with all our BCE coverage at http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
From the Founder
How the NIA Aims to Advance NFV

5|25|17   |   08:07   |   (1) comment


Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
LRTV Custom TV
Better Solutions That Address Growing Scale

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


For Comcast, the X1 rollout and 17-fold increases in broadband speeds in the past 16 years are among factors driving the need for Energy 2020 solutions that reduce cost and consumption, says Mark Hess.
LRTV Custom TV
Ethernity Network Delivers Instant Offloading of Network Functions With All-Programmable Intelligent NIC

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


David Levi, CEO of Ethernity Networks, explains that programmability of the hardware makes the company's All-Programmable Intelligent NIC uniquely beneficial for communications service providers that need advanced data appliances with agile support of virtualization. Utilizing the company's patented network processing technology, Ethernity offers data path ...
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Vodafone Gets Obsessed With Cloud-Native

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


Vodafone's Matt Beal updates us on Project Ocean and explains why simple virtualization isn't enough of a goal for network transformation. Catch up with other BCE 2017 keynotes and news at http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Intel's Take on Network Transformation

5|24|17   |     |   (0) comments


In this BCE 2017 keynote, Lynn Comp discusses Intel's vision for areas such as analytics, automation and service assurance. For more videos and BCE coverage, see http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
LRTV Documentaries
Order From Chaos: The Steve Saunders BCE Keynote

5|24|17   |   17:27   |   (0) comments


Kicking off BCE 2017, Light Reading founder Steve Saunders lays blame for NFV's slow ramp-up and urges telecom to return to old-fashioned standards building and interoperability testing.
Think of this as the video sequel to the recent columns he's written about NFV and the prospect of a telecom app store. (See

LRTV Documentaries
Service Provider Panel: Partnering in the Digital Era

5|22|17   |     |   (0) comments


Coopetition has always been part of telecom, but the ecosphere now includes data centers, vendors, apps developers, cloud service providers and Internet content providers. This BCE 2017 panel explores the new attitudes among network operators as to the value and variety of ...
LRTV Interviews
Site Demo: AT&T's IoT Flow Platform

5|19|17   |   04:25   |   (0) comments


At AT&T's R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel, project leader Eyal Segev talks about the operator's Flow platform and how it helps to prototype IoT applications.
Upcoming Live Events
June 6, 2017, The Joule Hotel, Dallas, TX
October 18, 2017, Colorado Convention Center - Denver, CO
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Cities Clamor for More Clout at FCC
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/23/2017
What's Blocking 4K TV Today
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 5/22/2017
Sonus & Genband Finally Combine to Form $745M Company
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/23/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Animals with Phones
What Brogrammers Look Like to the Rest of Us Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. Well cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.