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What about Ex-Cisco exec Bates as Juniper's next CEO?

Microsoft EVP has the service provider routing creds, Skype CEO background, Microsoft connection...

It's Blue Sky Thursday here at Network World, so allow me...

Why not Tony Bates as Juniper's next CEO? He has the service provider routing credentials from Cisco; and he's got the Microsoft connection that pervades Juniper's top ranks; and he has CEO experience from his short tenure at Skype.

There's still no word on Juniper's next CEO. Kevin Johnson announced plans to "retire" once his replacement is found. Perhaps his replacement comes as a result of Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's phone business.

[POW WOW: Juniper CEO Johnson talks software, the company's recent challenges and key future directions]

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced plans to retire within the next year. There's been specualtion that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop -- formerly Juniper's COO and also a former Microsoft executive -- is among the candidates under consideration to replace Ballmer.

Bates' name has also been bandied about for the top job at Microsoft but that seems a stretch, especially now that Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Elop have emerged as a candidates. But it's not a stretch to imagine Bates as Juniper's next leader.

Observers believe Juniper, in order to reignite growth, should focus more intently on its service provider routing roots. Service Provider is 63% of revenue; and Enterprise is doing ok, but not spectacularly: the most recent quarter saw a jump in switching revenue and market share (from 2.4% in Q1 to 2.8%) but security remains sluggish despite some "signs of improving demand" in Q2.

The company's been placing much more emphasis on software since Johnson came over from Microsoft, followed by Bob Muglia, head of Juniper's software business, and the software-defined networking wave overtaking the industry. But after Johnson's rocky tenure in which Juniper lost momentum is several key markets and its stock price dipped (we also hear he may have been asked to "retire"), picking another enterprise software expert -- like Muglia -- to run the second leading service provider router hardware company doesn't seem wise.

Bates does. Prior to leading Skype, which Microsoft acquired two years ago, Bates was at Cisco for more than 15 years after a career at MCI, the long-distance carrier acquired by Verizon. Bates led Cisco's routing group when the CRS-1 carrier core router was introduced and headed the company's Service Provider Technology Group. 

Bates left Cisco in 2010 as senior vice president and general manager of the Enterprise, Commercial and Small Business Group.

Attempts to reach Bates through Microsoft's PR machine were unsuccessful. Juniper declined comment and also declined to say how far along it is in the CEO search process.

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