When Bob Worrall joined Juniper Networks as CIO in July 2015, the multi-year transformation of the company’s IT strategy had been mostly complete. Juniper had gone from an on-prem-first to a cloud-first approach to infrastructure and from operating 18 data centers around the world to one in Sacramento, California, which hosts some leftover legacy applications, and two sites to support its engineering efforts.
We caught up with Worrall earlier this month in Las Vegas, following his presentation at the Data Center World Global conference there, to get more details about Juniper’s infrastructure rethink and to ask him about some important industry trends.
Below is a Q&A, in which the Juniper CIO reflects on the experience of the company’s switching from a “Why cloud?” attitude to a “Why not cloud?” one, his views on commodity hardware, which is eating into traditional sources of revenue for vendors like Juniper, the rise of Software Defined Networking and Network Function Virtualization, as well as the aftermath of the announcement he made last year that the company had found a “backdoor” in its data center security software.
The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity:
Data Center Knowledge: Can you describe Juniper’s use of cloud computing today?
Bob Worrall: The short version [of the answer] is we use cloud for everything. We have pivoted away from ‘why cloud?’ to ‘why not cloud?’ and I think that has transformed our overall approach. We don’t even consider anything on-prem anymore. It’s just not part of the conversation. If someone even suggested that, they would be looked at as someone from a different planet or something; it’s just not part of the DNA of the company.
We use cloud in all various ways, from engineering to corporate applications to some custom applications, everything in between. All of the flavors of it.
DCK: Can you share what your cloud services spend is?
BW: I can’t; that’s an internal number. But the overall spend for IT in the last five years has not materially changed. The shift, obviously, has changed: from depreciation on equipment and people to cloud services. We’ve harvested savings in one area and applied those monies to others.
DCK: So much of the spending has shifted from capital to operational cost?
BW: Most of it. We still have a lot of people as well, but the people that we have, fewer and fewer have been on the infrastructure side. We’ve invested more in roles like vendor management and compliance and security. We still have a large development team doing custom development, applications and so on, for internal needs.
DCK: Can you describe the tipping point when Juniper decided to go all-in with cloud?
BW: Back in 2011, with some early wins in cloud adoption of [Microsoft] Office 365 and so forth, I think the company just realized that cloud was real, if you will. Real in the sense that the savings were real, the operational benefits were real, the agility was real. And so there was a fundamental change in the attitude: Let’s go chase it. Let’s go big.
I think that was further supported by the realities of the customers that we began selling into back then. Large cloud providers who were running their businesses on all of these technologies and doing so very effectively. So, if it worked for them, certainly it could work for us.
DCK: Many of your biggest customers, the big cloud providers, have switched to commodity hardware. Have you done the same?
BW: On the hardware side we have various flavors of commodity hardware, up through name-brand providers, and everything in between. Really, it depends. In areas like engineering, we’re more apt to go with white-box approach to things, but for some applications that have unique software requirements, or other requirements, we might choose a more traditional supplier.
DCK: Can you elaborate on that last point, that some software requires hardware from traditional vendors?
BW: Security, or DR, or high availability, or some of those kinds of requirements for the applications. It’s not that you can’t achieve those with commodity hardware, but in some cases it might just be easier to buy a solution that includes some name-brand server providers.
DCK: Are services a big part of that calculation?
BW: Services are a big part of it. We have applications that support our customer service team, for example, with points all around the world, so it’s critical that we be able to get depots and spares and those kinds of things to many locations around the world. For some commodity suppliers, they may not have depots and points of presence in the Far East or Eastern Europe, so, in some cases we’ll go with name-brand providers.