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Ex-Microsoft Men Sprinkle Software Dust on Juniper

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Ex-Microsoft Men Sprinkle Software Dust on Juniper

Bob Muglia, in his Microsoft days (Photo: Microsoft/Flickr)

As the curtain came down on his 23-year-career at Microsoft, Bob Muglia phoned close to a hundred friends and colleagues, just to let them know he was moving on, and one call went to Kevin Johnson, CEO of Juniper, Cisco’s chief rival in the networking gear biz. On the face of it, Juniper couldn’t be further from Microsoft’s software-happy universe, but of those hundred calls, it was the one to Johnson that sparked Muglia’s new career.

Johnson is himself a Microsoft alum, and this summer, he hired Muglia to run a newly-formed Juniper division dedicated solely to software. Like so many tech outfits, Juniper is working to broaden the appeal of its products by encouraging software developers to build applications atop them, and at the same time, the fifteen-year-old company is expanding the reach of its own software tools, tackling common business tasks well beyond the scope of ordinary network hardware management. In many ways, Muglia says, this isn’t all that different from the work he oversaw at Microsoft as the head of the company’s Server and Tools division.

“The industries are different, but there are so many similarities,” Muglia told Wired on Tuesday, his second official day on the job. “In both cases, you’re providing solutions largely to business customers, but in doing that, you’re providing something to end-users too. I’m bringing many lessons I’ve learned about how to build products in such a way that make them easier for consumers to use and understand.”

Nowadays, he said, you can no longer split the market into hardware and software companies. “In a world where all devices are intelligent, there is no such thing as a hardware company. Juniper provides solutions, the combination of hardware with software that integrates it with the rest of experience people have.”

In 2006, Steve Ballmer famously underlined the importance of “developers, developers, developers” to Microsoft’s business, and today, the same chant applies to applies to Juniper – though Muglia delivers it with a bit more equanimity. Juniper runs a single operating system – Junos – across almost all of its networking hardware, including routers, switches, and security gear, and the idea is to expose application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow companies to build any number of applications atop the OS.

The company has long offered software development kits designed to tap these APIs, but according to Eddie Amos, vice president of developer evangelism at Juniper, this effort was greatly expanded by CEO Kevin Johnson, who joined the company in 2008 after 16 years with Microsoft. Johnson created a new business unit dedicated to the developer, and this now falls under the aegis of Muglia.

Since it was anointed by Johnson, the one-hundred-person developer business unit has stretched the company’s APIs into Junos Space, software “middleware” that runs across multiple pieces of networking hardware, providing overall network management. This is hardcore stuff, but Juniper wants it in the hands of the everyday developer. “Programming in networking world has always been the domain of the select few,” Amos told Wired. “We want to open it up to the masses.” This is way Juniper appeared at the JavaOne conference. That’s where the developers are.

With these APIs, the company encourages customers to build applications that tap into information they can only get from their networking hardware. You could use networking routing information, for instance, to determine that an employee isn’t in his office and automatically cut his lights off. Muglia imagines a situation where one person is broadcasting video to many others, and a video app is smart enough to provide the broadcaster with more bandwidth than those merely watching.

These applications might be built by a service provider. But they may spring up in the enterprise as well. Juniper’s traditional customer is the service provider – an ISP or some other outfit delivering a networking service to Joe Blow – but in recent years, the company has gradually expanded into the enterprise. According to Amos and Muglia, the trend will only continue as the company pushes further into software.

Muglia’s group also offers a software platform known as Junos Pulse, a software client designed to help manage the so-called “bring-your-own-device” problem afflicting today’s businesses. “All of the sudden, the device people are using to consume information in the enterprise is a consumer device. It’s not IT bringing the device in. It’s the end user,” he said. “We seek to provide the end user with the experience they want, but also let them do their job.” In essence, Pulse provides a way for businesses to better manage such devices and secure their use of company data.

AT&T is using Pulse to manage devices on its own network, but the ultimate idea is to bring this into the enterprise. One thing he realized after his first day as a Juniper employee is that the gap between the two is shrinking.

“This is now intuitively obvious to me, but I didn’t understand it as clearly as do after the last twenty-four days,” he said. “Almost all enterprises are becoming, in some form, service providers.” With its “cloud computing” offerings, Amazon and Google are now service providers. But so is General Motors, with its OnStar system for communicating with vehicles.

In other words, Juniper is now like Microsoft in more ways than one. It’s morphing into a software company but also into an enterprise company. Muglia and Amos insist that the influence of ex-Microsofties at Juniper shouldn’t be overplayed, but there’s no denying both the CEO and the new executive vice president of software came from Redmond. And it only makes sense that they would.


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