When Bikash Koley jumped ship from Google to become the CTO of Juniper Networks in mid-2017, it was considered quite a win for the networking firm. Koley, who had been Google's head of network architecture, engineering and planning, was considered an expert on software-defined networking (SDN). In fact, he oversaw Google's SDN transformation and designed Google's production network infrastructure including its data center and backbone network, among other things.
More than two years later, Koley is now charting Juniper's technological future. In advance of the company's annual customer conference, Koley talked with Light Reading about Juniper's SD-WAN moves, the importance of the network edge, and how the company is banking on 5G to help turn around its weak service provider business.
Below is an edited version of Koley's conversation with Sue Marek, contributor to Light Reading.
Light Reading: Juniper's service provider business has been a weak area for the company. What are you doing to change that? Will 5G make a difference?
Koley: A lot of the initial 5G deployments have happened in the radio access network. Service providers have also invested a lot in spectrum. There's been a lot of focus on that part of the network and they have been slower to build out the core to pay for that. And we've seen the effect of that. I don't see that changing overnight.
But we are well positioned for the full 5G buildout where we see service providers doing a core refresh and virtualizing their networks. That will be happening in 2020 or 2021. And we are positioned to take advantage of that.
LR: Juniper teamed with Ericsson about a year ago to be its 5G transport network partner. How is the partnership going?
Koley: It's going well. One of the things that we didn't have is a 5G radio. Ericsson has a strong portfolio. We have IP routing and security. Swisscom is one operator that we are working with Ericsson as a partner. There are also others that we are working with. We believe we are well positioned in that marketplace to take advantage of more 5G deployments that are coming.
So far most of the 5G trials are around 5G radio. We are just starting to see real, end-to-end 5G buildout.
LR: How is your SD-WAN strategy progressing? The last time we spoke you talked about how the company was offering private label SD-WAN to operators because you didn't want to compete with them. Is that still your strategy?
Koley: That strategy is one of our three pillars and it is working out well. We are increasing the number of customers coming through the channels. We have added more service provider customers but haven't announced any more publicly.
We also launched SD-WAN as a SAAS [software-as-a-service] that is cloud-delivered, and that business is coming together. Our second pillar is that we believe that SD-WAN itself is a feature and what people are really after is the simplification of their branch and they want it to be software-defined.
Our third pillar is that we believed from the beginning that security for the branch and the campus are important for SD-WAN. We are seeing success with that. We launched SD-WAN with security integrated into it.
And we acquired Mist earlier this year and with that integrated WiFi into the profile.
LR: How important is edge computing for Juniper and how are you working with customers on the edge?
Koley: Edge computing is important from multiple perspectives. When the cloud started it was primarily about centralizing the data into data centers. Now not just hyperscalers but also service providers are looking at the cloud and so are enterprises. Edge cloud is important because it is becoming increasingly expensive to move data from where it originates.
We are actively working with many customers on many things. Connected car, for example, has so many places that generate data. If you want to apply machine learning (ML) it will take a lot to bring that data to a central cloud, so you want to run ML as close to the car as possible. That means that there has to be an edge data center close to the car.
Industrial IoT is another example. All those sensors from the factory floor can't really pull that data back to a central location. Instead you want to process it as close as possible. That type of architecture is becoming commonplace.
This is a big opportunity for Juniper because we can address that with our Contrail Cloud and Contrail Edge Cloud. 5G makes this even more relevant because it's a low latency access network.
Juniper is one of the only companies that has a very strong presence with the hyperscalers, the enterprise and the service provider. When a workload moves from the enterprise to the edge cloud and to the public cloud, that data is probably running through a Juniper switch or router. Juniper has a footprint in all that infrastructure.
LR: Juniper's annual customer conference is about a month away. What will be the big themes at the conference?
Koley: We will talk about how the cloud is transforming enterprises and service provider networks. We believe we are really leading with that cloud transformation. We also will talk about engineering simplicity. What I mean by that is you will see how we can make operations simple by utilizing AI [artificial intelligence] and ML to make automation simple across networks whether they are enterprise, hyperscale or large service providers.
— Sue Marek, special to Light Reading. Follow her @suemarek.