Five hours into his return to Cisco, Jonathan Davidson says he left Juniper Networks to come back to his original stomping grounds because he believes Cisco is uniquely positioned to help service providers through the massive transformation process most are undergoing. And, he says, despite some recent hard times among the telecom equipment sector, there is growth ahead.
Davidson also tells Light Reading, in an exclusive interview, that he felt he had accomplished his mission at Juniper Networks Inc., where he went seven years ago to lead its service provider routing, switching and security products effort. The announcement of his decision to leave last week was accompanied by a Juniper reorganization announcement and, according to Business Insider, a workforce layoff. (See Davidson Re-Joins Cisco in SP Unit.)
While the past year has been hard on Cisco -- and most of its competitors -- in terms of revenue growth in the service provider space, Davidson sees his customers as having a broad spectrum of needs, and little interest in bleeding their vendors in the process of moving from hardware-based to software-defined networking. And he still sees Cisco as unique in its ability to meet that broad spectrum, from delivering components of a network transformation strategy to offering a soup-to-nuts solution. The business model for delivering that range of options may be changing, but service providers still need that help, he says.
"Our SP customers are going through a dramatic transformation, in their business and in how they go to market, and their customers' requirements are dramatically changing as well," he comments. "One thing that transformation means is that service providers have a common theme around the critical element of needing automation. When you tie these things together, how the business is transforming, how their needs are varied, there is one company out there that can help them. I believe Cisco is uniquely positioned to help service providers of all shapes and sizes."
The new senior vice president and general manager of service provider networking at Cisco admits some service providers are coming to vendors and looking to buy components, either hardware or software, thinking they will reduce their costs.
"They may not be factoring in other costs, such as the cost of integrating all of that themselves," he says. "It is important to fully understand the 'why' behind that ask. What I have found in my 15 years of being at Cisco and last seven at Juniper -- getting close to the customer is the only way you can be successful."
Today's service providers -- both telecom and cloud -- are looking for close partnerships with the companies supplying their technology, he adds. It is mutually beneficial to both parties that each find commercial success.
There is a shifting business model -- and a debate on how software should be priced that the industry hasn't yet settled, Davidson admits. But he downplays any drama around this shift.
He points to a mismatch in the way products have been monetized in the past, noting that "there have always been more software developers in the networking industry than hardware developers," but port-based pricing didn't acknowledge those realities.
"Any time there are major transformations that are happening, the general economic principles always win," Davidson notes. "You can't build something for a dollar and sell it for 50 cents. All of our service provider customers understand that. I don't see an environment where service providers want their vendor community to go out of business. I don't see that happening."
That will mean new business models -- not new in the sense that they don't exist yet, but new to telecom, he adds. "I think there are a finite number of business models out there -- which of those is going to be successful in the networking industry is something that we will see over time. The industry needs to figure it out."
The impact of the major cloud players on the telecom space is undeniable, but Davidson stays diplomatic on this front as well, saying all service providers are on their own "mental model journeys" on how to define their roles in connecting to or delivering cloud services.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading