Dean DeBiase, Host, the Reboot Chronicles and Chairman Revieve, Faculty Member, Kellogg School of Management

True AI and the Future of Networking: Rami Rahim, CEO Juniper Networks

Leadership Voices AI & MLRami Rahim
Dean DeBiase Headshot
The podcast’s title slide is shown. The title reads, “rev:eve: The Reboot Chronicles with Dean DeBiase.” Dean DeBiase and Rami Rahim’s headshots are featured, along with their titles.

What does Juniper’s future hold? CEO Rami Rahim shares.

In this must-see episode of the Reboot Chronicles with Dean DeBiase, Juniper CEO Rami looks back at how Juniper helped the internet scale in the 1990s at the cusp of the boom, when service providers were really struggling to keep up. He then looks toward the future and what role Juniper is playing in the networks of tomorrow, from AI-driven cloud services to security to 5G. 

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You’ll learn

  • How Juniper is rebooting into a more agile growth company and positioning itself against competitors

  • The most precious resource in the world, according to Rami (a clue: it’s data) 

  • The most fun part and biggest challenges of Rami’s job today as a CEO and technologist 

Who is this for?

Network Professionals Business Leaders


Dean DeBiase Headshot
Dean DeBiase
Host, The Reboot Chronicles & Chairman Revieve, Faculty Member, Kellogg School of Management

Guest speakers

Rami Rahim headshot image
Rami Rahim
CEO, Juniper Networks


0:03 welcome to another episode of the reboot chronicles a no holds barred form with global leaders authors entrepreneurs and

0:08 ceos about how organizations stay focused on growth and innovation in unprecedented times

0:16 i'm your host dean devious coming to you live from raviv's north american headquarters in chicago and we would

0:21 like to thank you for joining us from around the globe today [Music] i'd like to welcome Rami Rahim the ceo

0:27 of juniper networks to the reboot chronicles today headquartered in silicon valley with over 9 000 employees

0:33 in 50 countries and over 4.7 billion in revenue juniper and romney quite frankly

0:39 were pioneers in building the internet along the way he has um received a lot

0:44 of accolades my favorite one is he was named one of economic times most loved ceos i can't say that about myself

0:51 so uh that's a nice title by the way good to see you remy thank you dean it's pleasure to be here

0:56 i appreciate the invitation yeah we're big fans of um you know kind of the behind the scenes companies that

1:02 don't get enough attention um a lot of competition in your space of course but not enough talk about it i think so uh

1:09 you know juniper was a pivotal player in the creation of actually making the internet work something we all take for

1:15 granted that was back in the 90s you know from the dial-up era all the way through the broadband and beyond um

1:21 gosh at the time i was making the first cable modems so dating myself here but i think you were just a young engineer at

1:28 that time but let's just jump right into it um you know what from what i see my vantage point it

1:33 seems like telecom and infrastructure growth has kind of slowed i don't know about 22 23 with supply issues and stuff

1:41 maybe there's a lot of ordering going on but um i guess the first question right out of the box is how are you rebooting

1:47 into a more agile growth company and in how you position yourself against these competitors and kind of move from

1:54 this hardware centric world into more software ai driven cloud services

1:59 security 5g i could write a lot more buzzwords but just yeah how's that whole reboot how

2:05 you're approaching it and what's going to happen well what a great question to kick off

2:10 the conversation yeah i think jumping right into it juniper has always been a true innovator

2:17 in ip networking technology we were builders of uh the infrastructure that

2:25 helped the internet scale at a time when service providers were really struggling to keep up because it was really at the

2:31 cusp of the dot-com boom so imagine a little upstart company trying to convince service providers to trust

2:37 their networks with startups technology the only reason that i think they

2:42 managed or we managed to get that kind of trust is because they really had no choice traffic was exploding and they needed

2:49 technology that could keep up with that traffic and we had an innovative new architecture to developing routers core

2:56 routers at the time with silicon technology and a very scalable internet grade operating system

3:03 that could keep up with that demand and today you know we're proud to have

3:09 the top 50 service providers around the world as our customers but we have to your point absolutely by necessity

3:16 evolved our business and diversified our business so today if you look at our business it's actually very nicely split

3:23 between telecom operators which remain extremely important to us cloud providers all of the major

3:30 hyperscale cloud providers in the world are our customers and global 1000 type

3:35 enterprises that are increasingly trusting their networks on our technology and

3:42 i think in the early days our claim to fame our credibility our pedigree was in scale and performance

3:49 and of course that remains important today but i truly believe that the game has changed i think you know things have

3:55 evolved beyond just scale and performance into experience

4:01 right now if i talk to a cto a cio or ceo of a big fortune 500 company or a

4:08 telco or a cloud provider their biggest challenge is complexity in network operations that's slowing them down

4:15 that's in sometimes just bogging down progress and the solution to that is in

4:21 fact software driven innovation ai driven innovation that will remove the

4:27 complexity from running networks in fact to remove the human factor from running

4:32 networks altogether so if you look at our innovation today it is mostly in software

4:38 extra for example is our solution to day two automated operations of the data

4:44 center our missed ai engine is all about automated operations of client-to-cloud

4:50 enterprise services so juniper has evolved a lot from those early days of helping to scale the internet

4:56 you know i'll jump into that in a second the ai part but uh you you you as this offense happens on this program i have

5:03 flashbacks so at the time while you guys were coming out it was you and son and i was running the imagination network one

5:09 of the first online games companies and we had to build our own server rooms back then and you guys were you know we

5:15 weren't that big and you guys were supporting us and you know it was like startup working with startup and then there was sun who thought they were

5:20 going to rule the universe and it was it was an interesting time very hardware centric a lot of people a lot of we

5:26 called it sneakernet right a lot of people running around and and the industry is it seems like it has

5:31 evolved so much um so every time people hear ai it seems like

5:36 it's hyped up just about as much as metaverse um in terms of keywords it's it's it's

5:43 often misunderstood for instance from ravi the sponsor of this program you know we have an ai uh technology

5:49 that is at the edge in the at the edge for retailers and brands to help communicating personalized services with

5:55 all their customers whereas you have ai you know at the back on the back end and

6:00 in the actually all the way out to edge i'm sure but why is ai i guess how is it why is it so important sounds like

6:06 you're going to eliminate some some um manual processes and and and

6:11 and how is it actually going to help the industry you know at the network level well i'm glad you're asking because

6:17 honestly this is one of my favorite topics this might get too geeky little audience warning here

6:24 i will try to minimize the geekiness but you know being i was talking about myself

6:29 it's okay you know to talk about ai i think

6:35 you need to start by talking about data data is now the most precious

6:41 valuable resource in the world and we as a planet are accumulating data at an

6:47 unprecedented scale i heard a stat recently that 90 of all data in the

6:53 world has been accumulated in the last two years alone so now the question is what do you do

6:59 with all this data right and this is i think where ai comes in there is no way

7:04 for human beings to process this data manually ai is this new breed of learning that's

7:11 not learning through programming algorithms it's actually learning by looking at patterns in data

7:18 and now attaching it connecting it to our industry we are we as in an industry our customers

7:26 are sitting on gold mines of information that today are largely untapped

7:32 so ai as applied to our industry of networking is

7:38 incredibly promising it gives our customers the ability to collect data in real time i'm not talking about the

7:44 spooky customer you know payload stuff just performance data that gives us real

7:49 time visibility of the experience of every user on the network as they

7:56 do whatever they need to do on that network you take that data you learn from that data and then you automatically

8:02 translate it into useful things and for us those useful things those compelling

8:08 outcomes that we're able to offer our customers from this data are things like

8:14 the fastest deployment times the fewest trouble tickets the fastest time to

8:19 resolution of trouble when there is impact trouble typically you're solving problems before humans even know that a

8:26 problem exists um for those of you listening that means when your slack channel goes down this

8:32 can actually bring it back up quicker it identifies the problem and fixes it yeah and you know

8:39 you touched on something which is that there is a lot of ai washing out there there's a lot of

8:44 confusion there are a lot of people that are claiming ai when it's really just powerpoint ai

8:49 but i think we've moved from powerpoint into actual

8:55 real outcomes that we were able to offer our customers and probably the most fun

9:00 part of my job today as a ceo and also a technologist is to convert those

9:06 skeptics almost every day now into ai believers by demonstrating the

9:12 value that we can deliver through automated operations and i think you know honestly the future of networking

9:20 is about ai we are simply scratching the surface right now of what is possible

9:25 yeah and you're not just talking here you put your money where your mouth is you've made a couple acquisitions in the space we'll talk about how you dance

9:32 with startups in a little bit but you acquired maybe one or two ai companies to get ready for this this isn't something

9:38 you're just uh putting in your slide where as we say we absolutely have yes you know we've

9:43 always been a big innovative technology-led company we've all always invested a large part

9:50 of our revenue in r d but we're also you know humble enough to recognize that

9:56 sometimes the best innovation are outside of our four walls and we were very fortunate to combine with some

10:01 amazing team great talent and amazing technology mist is an example of an enterprise

10:09 architecture that is driven through cloud delivered ai and

10:14 actually the ai engine for mist is called marvis affectionately called

10:19 marvis marvis is honestly one of the most compelling technology breakthroughs

10:25 in our industry i have seen in my entire career and that's just because margaret's is

10:31 the first thing that i have seen that has really moved ai from a concept from you know just talk into actual

10:38 real-life results for our customers and we've taken it from there into appstra that

10:44 does something similar for the data center uh net rounds does something again similar for service provider wide

10:50 area networking i like marvis that uh that could trend as a new child's name we'll see if that

10:56 that picks up it's better than an acronym i mean come on so you've just hit on a bunch of things let's just try

11:02 to drill down and unpack a couple one is co-creation partnering with startups at kellogg i've

11:07 got a dancing with startups program we bring some of the largest and the smallest companies together on the planet really to help brands like you

11:14 figure out how to kind of dance that ecosystem who to partner with but it's always through a build by borrow lens so

11:20 you've talked about companies you bought which totally accelerated your ai capabilities and what about other things

11:26 in terms of partnering with startups on the whole co-creation side can you tell us what you're doing there

11:33 certainly i mean you know i i think if you look at juniper's pedigree our

11:38 history we've always we grew up as a challenger in an industry that had strong

11:44 incumbents and in order to succeed in that environment i think openness is your friend the

11:51 ability to demonstrate to your customers that you're not going to lock them into

11:56 anything you're going to embrace open interfaces um northbound southbound into

12:02 the optical air eastbound into peer solutions is very important to them and

12:07 that's something that i view as extremely important to maintain irrespective of how big we get i mean

12:14 many networks now we are the incumbents but i never want to lose fight or lose that

12:21 that that pedigree that we have in the company of openness because it's just so important for our customers now you know

12:28 it sometimes makes it more challenging for us because when you're this open you've got to constantly compete and

12:34 innovate and demonstrate to your customers that you have the very best solution um

12:40 but you know this is uh this is an area that i you know i absolutely always commit to my customers that having that

12:46 openness to work seamlessly with peer solutions with startup technologies that are out there is

12:53 a lasting uh element of working with juniper and you've got no shortage of

12:58 competitors as i mentioned and some of them you've kicked around the block i mean you know companies like cisco have struggled over the years i mean some

13:04 kind of kind of come and go depending on the ceos and the investments but it's got to be tough um because

13:10 some people call it the pizza box server market where you're just sliding stuff in amazon probably hasn't helped

13:16 commoditizing that and so that kind of leads to an interesting question is just um

13:22 you know what um you know what do you think are the biggest challenges i guess in your in

13:29 your industry at this time and what are the biggest threat and and how are you approaching that or

13:35 quite frankly does your whole industry need to reboot i know you're rebooting the company that's what we're talking about but

13:41 what what is are some of them still stuck in the old we call them bfs as big fat and slow so they're still like

13:47 making hardware versus you know changing yeah

13:52 there's no doubt that this has always been a very competitive industry and this is something an environment that we

13:58 are used to operating in and the key aspect to our ability to compete over

14:04 the years has been around our innovation and innovation is really a cultural thing that we

14:10 maintain true to our dna in the company and and to me innovation is about having

14:16 the courage to try new things and even to fail and giving juniper employees the belief that

14:23 failure is not is not a problem you know this is how we instill the spirit of risk-taking and

14:31 innovation the company that has worked so effectively for us over the years now your question was also touches on

14:38 um industry challenges well there are no shortage of industry challenges this is a challenging

14:45 industry at the end of the day probably one of the biggest challenges that we're facing right now is around semiconductor

14:51 shortages this is a very often talked about topic these days

14:57 it's not just affecting our industry it's affecting practically every industry today does it need a reboot i

15:04 mean absolutely today maybe around 90 of semiconductor supply comes from asia

15:12 maybe 90 comes from taiwan a small you know little island in in asia and i don't

15:18 think this is a healthy balance we need much more domestic manufacturing we need

15:24 more manufacturing in europe we need the government to pitch in because honestly this is a matter of

15:29 national competitiveness and security i am encouraged by some of the investments that u.s

15:37 companies like intel and global boundaries are making yeah until we're putting billions of

15:42 dollars to work and by the way as we speak uh the ceo is testifying on capitol hill exactly the pitch you just

15:49 gave it's not just a protectionist strategy it is a growth strategy but you're right they have put

15:55 billions of dollars to work and taking a hit on their income statement to get this going out or at least their balance

16:00 sheet i think it's the right thing to do it's the right decision to make by semiconductor fab companies in this

16:07 country and we fully support it yeah that's amazing um

16:12 and how do you kind of look at you know your co-creation efforts um

16:18 when you look ahead when you look at we like to call product road maps and boring stuff like that

16:23 um where do you see yourself and the the pretext under that is i've talked to

16:29 companies on this program over the last 10 years and some of them are hardware companies that could not figure out how

16:35 to change themselves into a service company i just mentioned one while ago who ended up acquiring some um bracken

16:42 darrell the ceo of logitech's been on they're still primarily hardware company doing extremely well of course a great

16:48 leader like you but yeah i guess two things how do you see the migration of of yourselves in the industry and you

16:55 see it more of a not just software as a services company with a balance of hardware but you see

17:01 going into other types of things in the future that maybe we haven't thought of yet yeah you know when i look at the history

17:08 of networking i've been in this industry now for 25 years there have been some key inflection points you know in the

17:14 80s there was around this unifying network protocol tcp that became the one language that that everything and

17:20 everyone spoke over the internet juniper bet its existence on that in the 90s

17:27 yeah and in the 90s it was around high performance silicon technology that allowed this the network to scale

17:33 juniper led this revolution i think if you look today the

17:38 key inflection is around software control points that remove the complexity out of

17:46 network operations and this is what we define as experience first networking now hardware remains very important at

17:53 the end of the day networking is inherently distributed uh high performance problem where you need

18:00 processors you need networking silicon to move traffic as fast as possible but

18:05 the promise of simplifying network of removing the obstacles of complexity

18:11 from network operations is first and foremost a software challenge and this is why

18:18 all of the software all the companies we've acquired over the last few years have been software most of our r d

18:24 innovation is in software today our software business is growing at a very

18:30 fast pace last year we hit over a billion dollars of sales achievement in

18:35 software so it is an incredibly important element of our

18:40 innovation um and it is the thing that's driving the biggest inflection point in

18:47 networking today which is around experience burst networking yeah yeah that is a big reboot by the way so

18:53 performance is good there you mentioned you just had a throwaway comment in there about how long you've been at the company i think your employee number was

19:00 it 32 or something or even less yeah is that right yes it's um that's amazing and that was uh

19:07 you've been there over four decades the way i measure because it's 90s you know and we're just getting into the 20th but

19:14 it's four decades so um what i guess a couple questions what the heck has your journey been like just personally forget

19:20 the business stuff here for a second you know coming at it from an engineering point of view you guys you and your competitors definitely are sales and

19:27 marketing culture because it is so competitive out there but i'm also hearing a a very strong engineering

19:33 innovation culture at your company as well absolutely you know i often get asked

19:38 why have i stuck around at what one company for so long it's a common question

19:46 it does come down to a couple of things uh first and foremost it's the people i

19:51 mean the opportunity to work and to learn from some of the smartest people in the industry and i've never in the 25

19:57 years i've been in this company felt like i'm the smartest person around i mean there's always

20:02 an endless amount of engaging conversations even as as a ceo

20:08 my favorite conversations are usually up on a whiteboard with a technologist solving a real customer problem

20:14 there's another aspect of this um i think that has kept me around is that is juniper is very much a purpose-driven

20:21 company you know we develop switching routing security products but at the end of the day we develop

20:27 something that's far bigger and more powerful than that what we do really matters what we do

20:33 helps our customers change the world if you think about just the last couple of years of the

20:38 pandemic i shudder to even imagine a world where we didn't have the network that kept us

20:44 connected to our families educating our children shopping

20:50 moving commerce along yeah this is all as a result of this incredible global

20:55 network and not just juniper juniper and our industry have helped create to me

21:01 i find this incredibly motivational and is why i've stuck around

21:06 in this industry and this company for as long as i have that's a really great way to reframe a

21:12 question by the way it's just like why have i stayed um i know a couple ceos that fire themselves once a year as part

21:18 of a practice it was popular in a book of years ago and and that refreshing that i've never seen them not come back

21:25 but whatever it's a tad self-serving but actually it's a brilliant way to get back and stuck back on on the you know

21:32 the actual purpose of what uh what's going on and and why you're there and you hit on another thing which is the

21:38 the internet those of us started out in the early days where we had to actually build it while it was going um because

21:43 it's such a point now i mentioned you know the games company when they build our own server rooms it costs about 50

21:50 million dollars to get a good startup going then um and infrastructure and all that cost and now i've got a slide where

21:55 i show every company i've been either ceo chairman of it gets down to almost like five grand right now with things like the aws and other things this guy

22:03 i've never seen a better time and a better platform for innovation and i know that's part of your your passion as

22:08 well as what has come out of the internet and that's so not necessarily in itself but all the capabilities that

22:14 we now take for granted um and and what's exciting more and there's

22:20 a question here is where's it going so things like the metaverse 3d modeling

22:25 lots of educational manufacturing design all types of applications there that are

22:30 out there even if it's just a boring zoom meeting but where do you see the potential of it going in the next 10 years

22:36 well i i touched on one area that it is where it's going and that is ai and ai as a

22:43 means to an end and that end i would summarize as the self-driving network in much the same way as we're moving to a

22:50 self-driving car we shouldn't underestimate just how big self-driving cars are going to be right

22:56 they're going to change the face of cities they're going to remove the need for parking structures they're going to save lives there is a similar need for

23:03 self-driving networks i mean another area that i can touch on that i think you know this industry is going is

23:09 around security as as proud as i am of the global network that we have built together as

23:16 an industry and here at juniper i think we also have to admit that it's a very connectedness

23:22 that we've created that has unleashed sort of unprecedented threats and unintended consequences we've for cyber

23:29 criminals removed uh time distance and identity constraints of doing bad stuff

23:35 so it's extremely important that as an industry we think about security embedded in every aspect of

23:43 what we do you know if in the past the constraints of building and expanding the network where

23:50 things like moore's law scalable protocols you know scalable silicon technologies i think the future

23:58 is around dealing with complexity which i already mentioned and then trust right and and that's where i

24:05 really take uh the security of the products that we developed uh really really importantly and you

24:12 know juniper's approach to security is not just about developing firewalls it is really around thinking about the

24:18 network as your threat vector as your threat posture to prevent the bad guys from

24:25 doing their dirty work because every ransomware attack every cyber security threat relies on the network to do bad

24:32 things well why don't the good guys rely on the network to detect those bad things and to prevent them where it

24:39 makes the most sense to prevent them exactly i do a lot of governance work with corporate boards and you know cyber

24:45 security was all the rage everyone got trained but it is still a defensive mode not offensive to your point that's they're

24:51 not they should be playing offensive just like they're being attacked attacked back and if anyone knew the amount of times the let's just say a

24:58 brand that you use maybe that makes food for you the number of times that that corporation was hacked on a daily basis

25:05 times it's thousands it's just normal normal course in space this curry is huge where else are you or the lack of

25:12 it right now but what are the big bets are you looking at yeah so ai security in the realm of

25:19 service providers uh 5g is obviously a

25:25 very big emerging opportunity and

25:30 within the sphere of 5g is this concept of network disaggregation

25:36 where what was once bought and deployed in these vertically

25:42 integrated systems especially for the radio access networks are now

25:48 slowly becoming disaggregated into separate components and separation of

25:53 software and hardware and the beautiful thing about this is juniper has nothing to lose here you

25:59 know we are again a challenger in this space and have an opportunity to

26:05 um deploy and to offer our customers a very disruptive economically compelling

26:12 solution for disaggregated ran or openram so we have

26:17 placed our bets we're working on technologies in something called a rick or a radio intelligence controller that

26:25 adds software intelligence to an end-to-end disaggregated open rand network we're

26:31 honestly seeing some really promising early signs in terms of interest for our

26:37 customers interest in the outcomes that we can deliver in terms of greater agility and

26:42 better economics of deploying these 5g networks worldwide something i'm super excited about

26:48 yeah there's 6g coming um but is there a trend to um

26:54 for corporates let's just say to bring stuff back on premise now that they've gone crazy with the cloud

27:00 i just i've heard in some circles that some people are just nervous about everything being out there yeah it just

27:06 seems like the train has left the station but what would say you well i would not bet against

27:12 public cloud uh i think every public cloud company is reporting

27:18 you know unbelievable growth right now and that is indicative of the direction for the market however

27:24 i do believe a few years ago there was almost this belief that everything was

27:30 going to move to the public cloud all workloads all applications i think today

27:37 people are far more realistic about what goes into a public cloud what stays in

27:43 um in a private cloud or a private data center that because that's just what makes the

27:48 most economic sense the challenge that we faced when we talk to customers around how

27:54 they balance those two things public versus private is they're just very worried that for the applications and

28:01 workloads they want to keep on private cloud they don't believe that they have the core competence the skill set

28:08 to manage a private cloud data center as effectively and efficiently as a

28:14 hyperscale public cloud provider yeah they've lost their muscle memory exactly

28:19 but this is where our our message our pitch is very simple you don't have to be an expert leave it to the robots it's

28:26 almost like a no close almost like no code low code kind of thing it's exactly right i mean that's right

28:33 abstra which is a company and a team and a technology that we acquired just um a year ago

28:39 in fact has invented this concept of intent-based networking which essentially means

28:46 it will simplify the act of operating networks to the point where it's essentially like you know using a public

28:53 cloud provider so there is really no excuse for any company out there that's thinking about

28:58 balancing workloads between public and private to not do that with their the technology exists and able to

29:04 enable them to do that as cost effectively and efficiently as possible yeah makes sense

29:11 i really want to thank you for for joining us today it's been a great discussion any final uh words of wisdom

29:16 for uh aspiring entrepreneurs out there or maybe engineers that we're employing number 32 about how they can like value

29:22 your footsteps and become a ceo someday it's a good question you know

29:28 maybe the one message i have for those aspiring ceos is that you don't need to jump around to move ahead in your career

29:34 i mean just look at me i've been at this company for 25 years i've done many different jobs at this company i will

29:39 admit i never had my eyes set on the ceo chair but that doesn't mean i wasn't ambitious uh and i didn't have this sort

29:47 of five-year 10-year plan but every i just worked super hard at whatever task

29:52 was given to me built a reputation of delivering and whenever that next opportunity

29:57 inevitably showed up i jumped on it i you know even if i didn't feel i was 100 ready i would go for it and that recipe

30:05 worked for me and it might actually work for those that are aspiring um for the corner office as well

30:11 i love that no matter what your next goal is but jumping into something you're not ready for is the most important thing you can do don't wait

30:17 till you're ready i love it thanks for joining us for me it's been great to see you again you've been

30:22 listening to him he's the ceo of juniper networks this is dean tobias with the reboot

30:27 chronicles we want to thank you for joining us today and we will see you soon

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