They did that once already, by hiring Johnson. He’s spent the last five years steering Juniper in a software direction, recruiting key figures such as Bob Muglia, also from Microsoft, as an executive vice president in charge of software. Revenues haven’t gone up steadily, but they’re up — to $4.6 billion in 2013, if the low end of Juniper’s fourth-quarter forecast comes true, versus $2.3 billion in 2008.
Still, some of the new products under Johnson’s tenure didn’t pan out: MobileNext is dead, QFabric debuted to a suspicious and critical reception, and analysts believe the PTX packet-optical core switch is cannibalizing core-router revenues.
So, should Juniper try something different with its third CEO? We’ve picked a few names arbitrarily, some representing possible new directions, some taken from Juniper’s past (and not all of them meant to be taken that seriously).
Scott Kriens? It’s not unheard-of for a chairman and former CEO to step back into the CEO’s role. Usually that’s on an interim basis, and Juniper is looking for something more permanent. Whether Kriens actually wants to be CEO again is another question entirely.
Stephen Elop? Elop was on the verge of becoming Juniper’s CEO (it says so here) before joining Microsoft in 2007 to run the Office division. He’s since become Nokia’s CEO and is now headed back to Microsoft, where he’s considered a CEO candidate again. Odds of his being available for the Juniper job are pretty much nil.
Mike Klayko? Juniper, ever the engineering company, hasn’t tried a sales type in the lead, and Klayko, ex of Brocade, is available. “People often say John Chambers is Cisco‘s best salesperson,” says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. Maybe that’s what Juniper needs to go further into multibillion-dollar territory.
But even Kerravala has problems with this theory. “I think they need to hire a network person,” he says. In that vein, how about:
Basil Alwan? For 13 years, he’s been running what’s essentially the startup TiMetra, now owned by Alcatel-Lucent and the source of that company’s 7750 Service Router franchise. It’s arguably one of Silicon Valley’s most successful acquisitions ever, and Alwan has not only kept the product roadmap going but kept the team intact while navigating the politics of a big company that’s been eager to cut costs. Kerravala thinks Alwan would be a great choice as Juniper CEO. Odds of it actually happening are an exercise left to the reader.
Jim Dolce? Another presumed CEO-in-waiting, Dolce was president of Unisphere when it got acquired by Juniper what seems like 100 years ago (or possibly in 2002). He left to become CEO of Verivue, which was acquired by Akamai almost a year ago. It’s fun to speculate whether Dolce might return to Juniper after he passes the one-year mark at Akamai — but it also seems like a longshot.
Ankur Singla? He’s been CEO already, albeit on a smaller scale at Contrail, running a piece of the company that’s now highly visible and instrumental to Juniper’s future. He’s in the right place and has the right ideas.
Mike Volpi or Charles Giancarlo? Maybe this is the result of one too many beers a couple of Fridays ago, but consider: Volpi and Giancarlo were both eager to bet on SDN and its potential to upend Cisco by investing in Big Switch Networks (Volpi through Index Ventures, Giancarlo as an individual). But the market strayed from the path Big Switch had planned, so the startup is now retooling. Maybe jumping on board with Juniper and OpenContrail could be Plan B. The obvious problem: Like, Cisco, Juniper has a router franchise to consider — a bit of baggage Big Switch was always gleeful to not have.
Pradeep Sindhu? Sindhu, a Juniper founder and its longtime CTO, seems more attuned to the technology side of the business, so — probably not.
But Sindhu is important to Juniper’s next CEO, for this reason: “Whoever it is, is going to have to be able to contain Pradeep,” as one industry executive outside of Juniper put it.
Sindhu is brilliant, but he tends to pull Juniper toward big ideas that aren’t always practical. The CEO’s job will be to balance Sindhu’s big dreams, which he’ll push forcefully, with the reality of running a public company.
“He’s very much a legend there, the godfather of routing for that environment,” Kerravala says. “I could see a CEO not agreeing with him and Pradeep coming up behind him with a baseball bat, like in The Untouchables.”
So, if nothing else, we know this: Juniper’s next CEO should have a thick skin and a batting helmet.