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Juniper AI-Native Networking – Making Every Connection Count

Juniper AI-Native Networking – Making Every Connection Count

On this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast, I am joined by Juniper Networks’ CEO, Rami Rahim, for a conversation on the transformative power of AI-native networking and how Juniper is leading the charge in making every connection count.

Our discussion covers:

  • The current state of Juniper Networks amidst its evolution and the expansion into AI-native networking.
  • Insights into Juniper’s strategic direction, focusing on leveraging AI for networking and networking for AI.
  • The impact of AI-native networking on customer experience and operational efficiency, with real-world success stories.
  • A deep dive into Juniper’s AI-Native Networking Platform and its expected influence on the networking industry.
  • The future of networking and AI’s role in shaping it, according to Juniper’s vision and recent innovations.
  • Rami Rahim’s personal journey with Juniper and his perspective on the AI revolution.
  • An exclusive look into the upcoming merger with HPE and the potential it holds for Juniper Networks.

Learn more about Juniper AI-Native Networking on the company’s website.

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Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Webcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this webcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded, and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors, and we ask that you do not treat us as such.

Transcript:

Daniel Newman: Hi everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Futurum Tech Podcast. I’m Daniel Newman, your host, Founder and CEO of The Futurum Group. Very excited for this conversation. I have a returning guest, someone I’ve had on a few of my different shows over the years, Rami Rahim. He’s the CEO of Juniper Networks. And today, we’re going to be talking about Juniper AI-native networking, making every connection count. Rami, first of all, thank you so much for joining me again. It’s good to see you. It’s been a minute.

Rami Rahim: Thanks so much, Daniel. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, the company’s been through some really exciting news over the past few months, and obviously, a big change and a big transformation. I’ll talk to you about that, that’s coming. But in the meantime, while the whole process of this tie up that you’ve got going with HPE is going on, you’ve got a company to run. And Juniper is in a really exciting position right now. Every company on the planet is out there to talk a little bit about what’s going on with AI, but just give me the overall landscape. How are things going right now for you? How are things progressing overall at Juniper?

Rami Rahim: Well, things are going really great, quite frankly, Daniel. We have been leveraging artificial intelligence now to drive our business and customer results for over five years learning from data, telemetry, deriving insights, and then using that insight to deliver incredible value for our customers. And just recently, as you just rightfully mentioned, we have announced the expansion of the very successful AI operations solutions that we have already been offering to our customers in the Campus and Branch and building this AI native platform that essentially straddles all the different network domains and brings the immense value that we’ve been able to achieve in the Campus and Branch to the data center and the wide area network. This is something that, as I mentioned, we’ve just announced, our customers are honestly clamoring for it, and I can’t wait to get these solutions in the hands of our customers, which will be happening very shortly.

Daniel Newman: As an analyst on the outside look in, it’s been very exciting to watch all the innovation in the space and of course to watch the innovation you’ve been leading over at Juniper. Now you’re not a recent appointment in terms of your role at Juniper. You’ve been there, what, I think you were an employee 32, Rami?

Rami Rahim: 32, yes.

Daniel Newman: So you’ve been through a lot?

Rami Rahim: Yes.

Daniel Newman: I want to talk about the future, but before we really dive deeper into this, what you’ve just shared, give me a little bit of the rundown, give the audience a little bit of that rundown of some of the innovation and these different periods you’ve been through since your time and being the 32nd employee Juniper.

Rami Rahim: Yes. So Juniper itself was a big bet on IP being the protocol of choice for the internet and also was an architectural bet on the need for purpose-built silicon that was required, we believe, back then to enable the internet to scale to what it is today. That was a massive inflection. And honestly, had we not made that bet correctly, I wouldn’t be here having this conversation, Juniper wouldn’t exist as a company. And since then, there have been a number of really big inflection points in the market. Obviously mobile computing, cloud computing, which essentially separated the consumers of infrastructure and applications and where those applications and the infrastructure is actually hosted.

And that essentially stretched networking and made networking even that much more important. Software-defined networking was an architectural shift that enabled compelling new solutions like our Mist AI ops capabilities that essentially takes control and management of a networking solution and puts it into the cloud. And of course, we’re just beginning on this journey of artificial intelligence. And my prediction is that AI is going to be bigger than all of the other previous inflections combined. And it’s great that we’ve already been investing in it, learning from those investments and deriving real value for our customers and achieving financial success with the early stages of AI just over the last few years, but I think the best is yet to come.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I like that you pointed to a couple of things that I’ve been paying a lot of attention to. About four years ago, I started talking about this idea that silicon would eat the world. And I know that we love talking about software, Rami, but the truth is right now what we’re seeing is this massive inflection being driven by the need for chips. You’ve probably heard out there some of the commentary from the likes of Sam Altman talking about a five to $7 trillion investment is needed, which of course, how that number has arrived at, I think we all probably started pulling out our napkins trying to figure out all the parts and pieces that would entail.

But to your point, how does AI become bigger than every inflection in the past? Well, it starts to become part of everything that we do across technology. And so that has left every person in your role, every CEO on the planet asking and answering a more complicated question, and I’d love to hear what you have to say, but okay, so everything changed around November 2022 after the generative AI boom, and every company now needed an AI story, what’s the big problem that you are solving for Juniper now that AI became the rotation to the epicenter of focus for every tech company and basically every business on the planet?

Rami Rahim: Right, it’s a great question, Daniel. I kind of view it in two different directions. There’s first, AI for networking. This is the use of artificial intelligence and in particular AI operations to augment human operations to make running networks super easy, less expensive, more power efficient, and also to delight the end user with an incredible experience. That’s what AI for networking is all about, but that’s not where the opportunity stops. There’s also networking for AI, and this is around the recognition that AI doesn’t just appear out of thin air, you need the processing power to enable the accumulation of information, the learning, and ultimately the processing necessary to derive incredible value for practically any AI application out there.

That can’t be achieved with just a single GPU, as you and I know. You need to do this by basically clustering hundreds if not thousands of GPUs together. That is a high performance networking problem. And this is where the need for not just industry-leading software, but also silicon capabilities that can keep up with the immense performance capabilities necessary to build these clusters of GPUs. So those are the two dimensions that we are investing in to capture the full AI opportunity that’s in the market today.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, there’s all of this inference that we want to do, and of course we hear all about the training that’s required, which is kind of the really cool LLMs, and everyone is focused on that right now. But in the end, this data has to move. It has to move in the cloud, in the branch, in the edge network on the devices. These are going to be really interesting problems to solve. And data, the explosion is exponential, and this is not small orders of magnitude, this is going to completely revolutionize the world, and that’s kind of where that multi-trillion dollar spend number probably came from. But let’s get a little bit more particular, Rami, about what you’re doing at Juniper. So in January you launched a new solution, you call it the AI-Native Networking Platform.

Rami Rahim: Yep.

Daniel Newman: Talk to me a little bit about what that means for the business and the impact you expect it to have on your customers.

Rami Rahim: Yeah, we’re taking a page out of the success story that we have seen with Mist AI ops in the Campus and Branch, and essentially making it into an end-to-end AI native platform that runs across every networking domain. And as I mentioned Daniel, the success is not new for us. So if you look at our mystified AI ops powered solutions, they grew 70% in revenue 2022 to 2023, and the momentum remains incredibly strong for us. So we believe that by taking these capabilities and expanding them across the data center, the wide area networking, even up into the application layer, we can see similar types of results in our business from doing that.

Why? Because our customers have seen the light, quite frankly. I’ve seen them go from AI skeptics when we initially introduced our Campus and Branch AI capabilities into AI believers as they started to see the immense value that this delivers to their business. And I suspect, I believe that this is going to happen also in these other domains, in the data center and wide area network as well.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I don’t believe there’s room for deniers anymore. I’m just going to be really straightforward about this. I think there are varying levels of enthusiasm right now, and I do think that we’re in a catch-up phase. I think you’ve probably heard yourselves and some of your partners and competitors have talked about the backlog of now implementing, ’23 was the year of selling AI chips and infrastructure, and now is the year for many of your partners in the world’s biggest SIs to get it integrated.

But I also like what you said, Rami, you said something about AI being everywhere. And look, I mean our business, even as an analysts, we used to have someone that was like the AI analyst, and our new perspective is there’s no such thing. AI is everywhere, it sits on top of every technology discipline. It’s AI in silicon, it’s AI in cloud, it’s AI in networking, you know what I’m saying? So I think the way you’re going to have to do business is AI becomes a core part of everything you do. So let me ask you that, are you going to be able to flip and get the market to buy into this idea that Juniper is an AI company now?

Rami Rahim: Yes. Well, it’s a great question, and not only do I believe we can do this, we have already done it. In the Campus and Branch, we are true leaders in demonstrating to our customers the power of AI in transforming the experience of both the network operator and the end user. I don’t need to prove to you, other than to just show you the financial results that we have achieved with our AI powered solutions, that this is something that is a reality today.

But I also believe we’re just scratching the surface and the opportunity for us is to expand that capability to every networking domain. And that’s what we’re doing imminently in the data center, eventually in the wide area network. And then finally, as I just mentioned, this is going to become a key part of leveraging our pedigree, our history of being able to build high performance, highly resilient network solutions and applying those solutions to the AI cluster data center. That is a massive multi-billion dollar, very high pace, high growth opportunity that’s for grabs today. And we’re investing to capture more than our fair share.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, look, there’s something that you said there about the proof, and of course as someone that watches markets very closely, everybody out there wants to see the clear revenue inflection, meaning how is AI adding? How is it net revenue expansion? But I think there’s two parts of it, there’s almost the table stakes aspect that you have to first prove that AI is core to your solution, and then you have to prove that the market’s willing to pay something more, whether that drives up margin, drives up productivity, drives up the total number of SKUs and demand, and of course for you drives market share.

And so these are all things that of course we’re watching. And I think the proof does come in the numbers, but it comes in many formats. And I think the market’s still really trying to digest what formats that should come in other than just this is how much AI revenue is in this particular business’s numbers. Now, having said that, you also indicated that you see this networking opportunity. A lot of the focus on AI today has been about compute, it’s been on the infrastructure, especially about compute and on the business apps and on all the LLMs, it’s really more of an application. But what about networking? I mean, it sounds like you’ve come to the realization that AI can completely and fundamentally change networking. Explain what you mean by that.

Rami Rahim: Well, there’s a number of different things. As I mentioned, the internet was the first big bet that resulted in the birth of Juniper Networks, and I believe the internet is the greatest vehicle for human advancement and innovation the world has ever seen. It turns out that connecting people and things in scales of billions is a very useful thing to do. It’s also a very hard problem to solve, and we’ve solved that incredibly well. AI is going to be even bigger for networking than what I just described for the internet. And the reason is that the processing power that’s necessary to achieve these unbelievable outcomes that we’re seeing result from AI in practically every single application that you and I can imagine, as well as applications we haven’t even imagined before, requires more than just one GPU, more than just a dozen GPUs.

It literally requires thousands, if not tens of thousands of GPUs connected together in a high performance way that can operate as a collective single system. That is a networking problem more than anything else. That is the opportunity that is before us today. Today, that market opportunity for networking is actually not that large. It’s measured in the sort of few number of billions of dollars, but the growth rate is immense. And I’m referring here specifically to the growth rate of ethernet networking for clustering of GPUs, for processing of AI workloads, either learning or inference. A massive opportunity with huge growth rates that we’re investing to capture.

Daniel Newman: And Rami, I’ve heard, and some of our research that we’ve done and our market intelligence, but one of the numbers I’ve heard was something around 20% of the compute bomb is the networking opportunity. And if you look at the compute numbers that people are putting out there right now, that’s massive. Now again, could it change and will it change? Yeah, of course it’ll change. I think it’ll grow though. So my take is the amount of networking required will actually continue to grow. And by the way, as something, maybe a word of encouragement for you and the team at Juniper is our data, and we’ve talked to thousands of CIOs and done our own intelligence homework, is that it’s somewhere around the 300% increase in implementation spend, multimillion dollar AI implementation spend this year in ’24.

’23, people were kind of getting access to the compute and they were playing this year, they’re starting to spend on what they want to do, this is a very compressed innovation cycle.

Now I’m going to ask you a question I have a little bit of fun with, I’ve had fun during the AI. Actually trying to do a podcast, a conversation to tweet, anything, go on TV, anything I do and not talk about AI has been nearly impossible. So I love to ask those sitting in your seat, I say, what makes your AI special? Okay, every networking company right now, every cloud company, they’re all saying something. What’s the Juniper, “This is what makes Juniper and its AI story special or different”?

Rami Rahim: Yeah, so I love answering that question because I do acknowledge there is a lot of AI-washing out there and a lot of lofty claims made by our peers, our competitors in the industry. And I would just ask whoever’s evaluating to see what is real from what is fluff and PowerPoint slides is look at the results from actual customers. So Gap Inc reduced the number of truck rolls to their stores by 85% by leveraging our AI operations. ServiceNow achieved a 90% reduction in trouble tickets in their network operations. Fasthosts, an 85% faster network service provisioning as a result of our artificial intelligence. So I just always point, those who are evaluating and trying to distinguish between the fluff and the real to look at real customer outcomes. And we can point our prospects, our customers to real examples across the board around the world.

Daniel Newman: This may sting some folks depending on when they watch this, but you know how you knew that the Kansas City Chiefs were better than the 49ers?

Rami Rahim: How is that?

Daniel Newman: The scoreboard. I mean, that’s what you’re telling me. The score said they had more points. The score you’re saying is that you’re able to deliver measurable, meaningful outcomes that outperform the market.

Rami Rahim: That’s true.

Daniel Newman: So I know being a tech analyst and working with companies in the Valley, they’re probably not very appreciative of that answer. But in this particular year, the scoreboard is the results. And I think in your case, being able to say, “Hey, this is really how we’re different is we’re delivering results,” they’re measurable in a world of measurable outcomes and companies looking to get ROI on technology investments, that may be the most important thing.

Now, let’s put kind of the CEO journey hat on for just a minute. You’ve been through a journey. And by the way, AI is not new. I mean, I just want to go back, I’ve had people on my show that were PhDs in AI in the ’80s and ’90s, I’ve talked to executives. We’ve been doing AI in various forms and factors for a long time. Now, again, ’22 is this tipping point, but talk about your journey and how you as CEO have thought about the AI journey for Juniper.

Rami Rahim: Yeah, you are absolutely right. It is definitely not a new technology, but the pace of change today and the level of progress is stunning. And honestly for a CEO, but also for a technologist, which I consider myself to still be even as a CEO, it’s an exciting time to be alive. It just feels like every day you wake up you are seeing yet new incredible use cases and applications in our industry, but in practically every industry around the world.

So I’m sort of a very mission-oriented person. Obviously I want to achieve financial success and results for my company, but I also want to feel like I am doing something that’s ultimately going to have a significant positive impact in the world. And this AI revolution that’s happening today, capturing for me very personally is incredibly personal, it’s motivating, and it’s something I consider to be sort of just incredibly excited about.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, purpose certainly gives us something to wake up to beyond just driving the number. So you kind of go from one end of the spectrum to the other. The question and the answer is, well, it’s the scoreboard, it’s the results. But in the end, you also want to feel like the company is contributing something meaningful to society, to its partners, to its customers, and of course helps you get up in the morning when you know those outcomes are part of what you’re doing.

So let’s sit in the chair of your customer for just a minute, because AI is changing their world. It’s changing the businesses fundamentally, whether it’s the network partners you have, the enterprises, you’ve had a big shift in your businesses to being more enterprise and cloud-centric. How are you seeing it playing out for your customers?

Rami Rahim: When I talk to IT professionals, CIOs, CTOs of our customers and our prospects around the world, I think there are a couple of recurring themes. First and foremost, it’s just insufficient talent, right? There’s a talent shortage of skilled IT professionals that are out there. And second, it’s budgets. These IT professionals are being tasked with achieving strategic growth for their companies, keeping the disruptors out of their business, digital transformation initiatives. And that requires resources, it requires investment that they’re just not seeing at the pace that they need.

At the same time, 70, 80% of IT staff today is focused on just keeping the lights on, making sure that the network is just running smoothly. And I think that the answer to all of the above problems is to augment the IT professionals that exist today, the humans with robots, and that robots is in the networking, just software that’s running artificial intelligence to essentially alleviate all of these problems. This, I believe, is why there are so many skeptics that are transitioning to believers right now. There are no better alternatives today. That’s the challenge, but then it’s of course the big opportunity for us.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, we have a great future of discussion on the opportunities, augmentation, up-skilling, leveling. Every digital revolution and industrial revolution that we’ve been through has yielded more work, more jobs, more opportunities. But of course, we’re at this interesting early stage, like you suggested in the beginning, where we’re still kind of determining that, right? How do IT roles advance? How do developer roles advance? How do business managers, marketers, all kinds of different roles that AI is going to change? But I think starting to see the light, Rami, on what comes next is really exciting. And historically speaking, it has been additive. And so I’m still an optimist and I think that it’s a good place to be.

Speaking of forward-looking, I want to end on a question that I’m not sure how much you’re going to be able to tell me, but I would be missing a great opportunity if I didn’t ask you about it. So Juniper is under an agreement right now to be acquired by HPE, coming together two incredible companies with deep technological capabilities, great history, provenance, global customer and reach, and of course some competitive and some completely distinct parts of your businesses. What can you share about this, if anything, and kind of what are your guiding posts for the next year while you’re in process to keep your customers and your employees and everybody focused, but at the same time, maybe any thoughts on the deal itself?

Rami Rahim: Certainly. So first of all, I want to just say I cannot be more excited about our next chapter at Juniper Networks. And if you think about Juniper’s birth being a big bet on the internet itself, this combination of the proposed combination is a big bet on the artificial intelligence opportunity that is before us. So obviously for the next year, we need to get through this process of regulatory approvals and we will work constructively with regulators to do just that. But if and when this does get approved and we become a single company, the opportunity is absolutely immense for us. We will have the ability to accelerate our innovation across every layer of the technology stack, from software to silicon to systems, across all the different networking domains from the Campus and Branch to the data center to the wide area network into security.

And of course, we have the ability to build end-to-end solutions that leverage all of Juniper’s and HPE’s technologies from compute and storage and hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence to build end-to-end seamless solutions for our customers. I have the distinct honor and privilege to be able to run the new combined networking business after the deal is closed, and I’m honestly just looking forward to it. It’s going to be an incredible value creation move in the industry for all of our customers and our partners.

Daniel Newman: Well, Rami, I’m excited to watch and continue to track and of course provide my own commentary and analysis on this transaction. But I do think it’s a very interesting one. My comments out there for everyone in the community here, you can see them, they’re on Twitter, they’re on LinkedIn, we’ve written some articles about it, but of course you’ve got the source here, Rami Rahim, CEO of Juniper.

Hey, Rami, I want to thank you so much for joining, going under the covers a little bit about the AI journey and the story. It’s a big opportunity and I expect Juniper currently, and of course, if this tie up is completed to continue to be a big contributor to the innovation and AI and networking, and I hope I’ll be able to have you back soon.

Rami Rahim: Thanks so much for having me on, Daniel.

Daniel Newman: All right, everybody hit that subscribe button, join us for all of our episodes here at Futurum Tech Podcast. But for this show, for this episode, it’s time to say goodbye. So we’ll see you all later.

Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.

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