Juniper's Kriens: Merging Along
Last week, Light Reading caught up with Kriens and Pradeep Sindhu, Juniper's vice chairman and chief technical officer, at the Supercomm 2002 trade show in Atlanta. It's apparent that the radical change in the industry over the past couple of years has got Kriens thinking -- and acting. His new plan for Juniper is to assimilate Unisphere quickly and move on.
Making the Unisphere acquisition work is crucial for the health of Kriens's company. Juniper is facing its biggest challenge yet and competitors smell a huge opportunity if Juniper stumbles. "Is the [Juniper] M5 or M10 going away, or will it be the [Unisphere] ERX?" asks Georges Antoun, Redback Networks Inc.'s (Nasdaq: RBAK) senior VP of marketing and product management.
"We're not going to talk about specific products," says Sindhu. However, he points out that from an engineering perspective, Juniper and Unispherehave had similar network visions, except that Juniper started working at the core and moved to the edge, while Unisphere started at the edge and worked back to the core. "The [engineering] cultures were the same, but the starting point was different."
When the deal closes -- possibly in early July -- Kriens says Juniper will tell each of its employees, old and new: (1) whether they are still employed and (2) what their responsibilities will be. "Everybody on that day will know their role and responsibilities and goals and deliverables expected," says Kriens.
"The distinction between the acquirer and the acquired company has to disappear very quickly," he says.
Juniper's proposed acquisition of Unisphere shows how the company is evolving from a single-product core router vendor into a more complex corporate entity (see Juniper Nabs Unisphere for $740M). Kriens couches the evolution of the company in a sports metaphor, saying that, like a great golfer, a great company "must be able to hit every club in the bag."
"That includes joint venturing, marketing, acquiring products, acquiring businesses, and innovation in our own product areas," says Kriens.
Juniper first built its own products, then it began joint marketing arrangements with Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and others. It acquired hardware, software, and semiconductor talent when it bought Layer 5 and Micro Magic Inc. It started a joint venture with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY). And it bought a young, unreleased product when it purchased Pacific Broadband Communications (see Ericsson: Every Vendor's Best Friend, Juniper CFO Addresses Acquisition, and Juniper Steps Up ASIC Efforts).
In the past, one of Kriens's favorite conversational standbys has been to compare the networking business with the PC industry. He'd point out that both industries had their early winners: all-purpose giants such as IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) in PCs and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) in networking. However, each industry eventually supported a variety of specialized companies that did one or two things well.
Now technology markets have changed, and Kriens's analogy is no longer so cut and dried. Neither is Juniper's business.
In the PC industry, Dell sold corporate PCs and that was about it. In networking, Juniper sold core routers and life was peachy. Now, Dell's business also includes handhelds, peripherals, consulting services, and some networking gear. Likewise, Juniper's business now includes core routing, edge routing, and solutions for cable and wireless networks.
Juniper is now acquiring a full-blown business with customers, an established sales channel, a maturing product, revenues, and about 600 employees. And the blend of Juniper and Unisphere will likely take on an identity of its own.
But Kriens still sees Juniper primarily as a developer of products, rather than as an acquirer. "[Juniper] will never compromise the primary commitment to innovation," Kriens says. "Acquisitions are not a substitute for innovation, and it’s a fatal mistake to believe that they ever could be."
— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading