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Alan Boehme, CIO, Juniper Networks - InternetNews.
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Alan Boehme, CIO, Juniper Networks

Alan BoehmeOver the last several years, Juniper Networks has emerged as one of the biggest and most influential networking firms in the world.

Juniper holds a "leadership" position in the SSL-VPN space, is helping China as well as the U.S. to build out IPv6 networks and is upping the stakes in network access control technology with its Infranet initiatives.

Growth by acquisition is also part of the Juniper mantra. The company acquired Netscreen for $4 billion in 2004, Kagoor for $67.5 million in March 2005, Peribit and Redline for $449 million in April 2005 and most recently Funk Software in November 2005 for $122 million.

Internetnews.com recently chatted with Juniper Networks CIO Alan Boehme about the challenges of running a networking company's network.

Q: You became CIO in November 2005. How does your mandate differ from that of your predecessor's? What new or different direction are you taking?

Whenever you come into a new CIO position, the first rule is "don't break anything." I've been asked to accomplish certain things that in some ways are continuations of what we've previously been doing in the IT organization at Juniper.

But as the organization has changed, there are different things that we have to do in IT now, as well. We have to align for the changes that the Juniper business is making.

Q: How much does Juniper actually outsource itself? Do you consider it positive or negative?

I think in this day and age, outsourcing isn't an issue anymore. We are a global company and therefore we have resources working for us all over the world.

It's now to the point where it's a necessity and part of the world. I started outsourcing in the mid-80s when it was new and you looked for competitive advantage for cost and things of that nature. But now the idea is to get the best talents you can, wherever you can find them. With technology such as Juniper supplies, you can create virtual workplaces, so it's not an issue.

Q: How much of Juniper Networks equipment is actually deployed and running inside of the Juniper network?

We drink our own champagne. Everything that we sell we run. IT runs it before we start selling it because we're also a very important part of the testing process. We'll get things in beta or alpha releases and help our engineering organization shake it down.

Whether it's one technology or another, whatever we have, we put it into our environment in an appropriate way and we use it. Hopefully we're becoming a showcase of how organizations can change the way they do business by being more and more network-centric.

We're actually now kicking off a project here in the first quarter to "re-look" at everything and say "how can we build the next generation of our network, infrastructure and our operations that will be what most organizations will be running three years out?" But we want to be building it and start running it this year.

Q: I know that Juniper uses open source technologies in various parts of its organization. Do you have any concerns about patents, intellectual property rights, etc., that cause you concern as a CIO or limit your ability to deploy or use open source?

Although we've seen challenges from certain organizations about licenses, I think that we have used open source technology selectively in areas where if something were to occur, from a legal challenge it would not impact us.

One of the good things about open source if you architect things properly is the portability. And if something comes up and there is a claim by a third party against another company that could potentially impact what you are doing -- if you have portability built into your environment -- you can quickly and easily eliminate that as an issue.

I'm not too concerned about it. We do protect our intellectual property that we create fiercely. We create things based on the technology that is proprietary to us, which is really our business rules, operations, procedures and things.

As far as third parties making claims against the open source community, it's a measured risk that we feel is something that is controllable.

Q: What is the biggest security challenge you face? Internally or externally and how do you deal with that?

When I look at security I also look at regulatory components of security. As a global company, not only do you have to worry about U.S. laws but also laws in other jurisdictions. The regulatory aspect is probably the biggest challenge, because it is something that you have the least control over. Technically we don't have any issue. We use our products. We use them wisely.

Q: Do you have policies about IM usage, blogging and P2P applications within the enterprise? If so, how aggressively do you monitor them?

There are two issues here. One is policy. I think that technology tends to outrun policy. We don't see it as an issue and it doesn't keep me awake at night.

We haven't had a need to spend a lot of time on it because we haven't had a lot of people abusing it. Everybody at Juniper that is using the various tools that are out there are using it in a very responsible manner.

Q: What does keep you up at night?

We have a very fast growing company. The organization is changing and growing through acquisition. What's keeping me up at night is the assimilation of the new entities into the business and all those things that go with it: systems, people, process -- all those things. Making sure it's done smoothly.

Also just making sure that we are positioned to continue to grow and keep the org in a position so it can grow and expand. Business activities due to growth are really the issues that keep me up at night.

Q: What's next and what are your goals for 2006?

From the IT perspective what we're really trying to do is to get better alignment with the business. I would like IT to be viewed as a contributing factor to the business's success, not just a supporting factor.

We want to leverage the world more, even more than we've done in the past. There are so many good skill sets out there all over the world and we really have to be global-centric as opposed to being a U.S. company doing business globally from an IT perspective.