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CEO leaves Juniper on an upswing

But Johnson's tenure was rocky, punctuated by product transition issues

Kevin Johnson wants to spend more time with family. That's the reason he gave for his sudden retirement as Juniper CEO during the company's second quarter conference call.

Johnson leaves Juniper after five years as its leader, and apparently in a promising situation. Second quarter results blew past Wall Street expectations; and momentum is building for core and edge routers, and data center and campus switches.

Routing product revenue was up over 14% in Q2 from last year and switching revenue was $160 million, up 14.5% from last year and 22% from Q1.

Juniper's enterprise business overall drove the company's sequential revenue growth 9%, CFO Robyn Denholm said. Enterprise was $425 million in the quarter, up 23% from Q1 and 8% from last year. The federal government and financial services verticals saw double digit growth, and Juniper's new EX9200 switch was a difference maker in the quarter, company officials said. QFabric also had a "record quarter," Johnson said.

[SWITCHING GEARS: Juniper switching boss talks technology challenges, Cisco Nexus 6000]

Still, Juniper would not break out revenue by switching product line - EX or QFabric - and would not discuss QFabric sales in terms of standalone top-of-rack QFX switches vs. whole QFabric implementations of top-of-rack nodes, core interconnects and directors.

Juniper sees more of the same momentum continuing into Q3. This is in contrast to the challenges the company faced during Johnson's five-year tenure: simultaneous product transitions in three or four key markets - core routing, campus/data center switching and mobile packet infrastructure; a veritable free fall in security; loss of momentum in its enterprise business; rumors of a company sale, and an asset sale (security); the almost simultaneous departure of four top level executives; a 5% workforce reduction; falling behind Alcatel-Lucent and out of the No. 2 position in edge router market share; and the long, drawn-out pre-introduction of QFabric, which subsequently underwhelmed in the market.

He did, however, successfully navigate Juniper through the Great Recession and into a 20% growth mode coming out of it before revenue tapered off and earnings slid. But perhaps what prodded Johnson into retirement most was Juniper's stock performance: On the week Johnson became CEO, Juniper was 24.15; on the day he announced his retirement, it closed at 21.34.

Johnson's not the only one to leave. Juniper's combined its sales and marketing under one roof, with EVP Gerri Elliott leading the group. CMO Lauren Flaherty left to take the same position with CA. Her replacement is Brad Brooks, VP of marketing and strategy in Juniper's Software Solutions Division.  

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