Feature Article: Juniper Networks Celebrates 10 Years of Innovation
The idea that became Juniper Networks
In June of 1995, taking a two-month leave from his job at the pioneering Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) - the incubator for many of the elements of modern computing - Pradeep Sindhu was considering his next move.
Fortunately, he decided against pursuing possible projects in graphics and computing in favor of focusing on networking. Sindhu - Juniper Networks' founder and current CTO - explains that his decision was influenced by a confluence of four factors he observed at the time: 1) the exponential growth of the Internet; 2) the fundamental importance of the Internet Protocol (IP); 3) the plummeting cost of raw bandwidth; and 4) the immature state of IP routers. He felt he could help advance the then-emerging field by rethinking router implementations, which he characterized as being "backward as compared to computers at that time." Once he decided to take on networking, Sindhu recalls "it was like an emergency; I needed to move very fast."
He did move quickly, but the world wasn't quite ready for Sindhu's innovative thinking about how to significantly improve the raw performance and price-performance of routers. "Venture capitalists kept saying, 'when you get a VP of engineering and a team, give us a call back,'" recalls Sindhu.
Deciding then to contact only those VCs who had already funded networking companies, Sindhu finally connected with someone who "got" what he had to offer - Vinod Khosla of Keiner, Perkins Caufield & Byers. In December 1995, Sindhu received the green light and the all-important seed money from Kleiner Perkins, who also gave the then three-person team - Sindhu had recruited Dennis Ferguson, then working at MCI, and Bjorn Liencres from Sun Microsystems - some office space in Mountain View, California.
What's in a name?
Preparing to incorporate, the fledgling company needed a name. Since they were focused on harnessing the growing capabilities of the Internet Protocol, the team wanted "IP" to be part of the company name. When they submitted a list of names - including such possibilities as IPcom and Ipswitch - to their legal counsel, they were told to pick one. Showing the list to his young children, Sindhu recalls, "The only word they recognized was 'Juniper.'" And so, on February 6, 1996, Juniper Networks was incorporated in the state of California.
Designing and building Juniper Networks' first router, the M40, was a complex undertaking. The revolutionary product had attracted the attention of - and a sizable order from - the major service provider customer at the time, UUNET. Other customers - and investors - soon followed. "Unlike most startups that start small, we took a different approach," explains Juniper Networks CEO Scott Kriens, who joined the company in its seventh month, September 1996. "We thought that if we started at the top and solved a problem for the industry's largest customer, we would gain instant credibility."
"People said it was insanity to put the entire forwarding path in silicon," says Kriens with a chuckle. "They said it couldn't be done. But we had the team who knew how to do it."
Released in the fourth quarter of 1998, the revolutionary M40 was a big success, and was followed in 2000 by another industry first - the M160, which introduced the first 10 gigabit-per-second router interface, beating Cisco to market by almost two years. In 2002, another Juniper Networks breakthrough was the next-generation T640, the industry's first dense 10G routing platform. Along with the TX-Matrix, it also allowed multiple T640s to be connected to build even larger routers. The M40 achieved a 20x performance improvement over the competition when it was introduced. The M160, the T640, and the TX-Matrix quadrupled this performance every two years thereafter - a record that few companies in any industry have accomplished, let alone others in the communications industry.
During the past decade, Juniper Networks has delivered many more industry firsts, and has grown from a small startup with no products into a global corporation selling 55 products to 8,000 customers in 75 countries.
Growing, growing, and going public
Central to Juniper Networks' success - from day one and every day since- are its people. In the early days, there were intense group interviews for new hires, complete with arguments and debates about how to solve complex technology problems. Juniper Networks' deep and abiding values of humility, excellence, respect, integrity, and trust - the Juniper Way - were formed in those early days, and continue to guide and distinguish the company a decade later.
By 1999, after launching the M40, Juniper Networks was poised for accelerating growth. That was the year the company started its European and Asian operations (one person in the UK and one in Japan!). It was also the year that Juniper Networks completed its successful IPO, becoming a publicly held company on June 25th, 1999. Later that year, in November 1999, Juniper Networks made the first of what would be many strategic acquisitions that helped the company grow sensibly and stay focused.
Other key milestones that reflect Juniper Networks' growth as a global industry leader include the establishment of the Juniper Networks Foundation Fund (JNFF) in 2000, the creation of Juniper Networks' Technical Certification Program in 2001, the opening of technical facilities in India in 2003 and their expansion in 2005, formation of the J-Partner Alliance programs in 2004, and the founding of the Infranet Initiative Council (IIC) in 2004 (now known as IPSphere), among many others.
The next 10 years start now
Juniper Networks' first 10 years have taken the company from zero revenue in February 1996 to over $2 billion in February 2006, with the company now widely known as a trusted innovation leader in the global service provider marketplace.
Enabling the company to succeed into the next decade and beyond are the incredible people that make Juniper Networks 'Juniper Networks'. From the beginning, the company has attracted the best and the brightest, people who want to be challenged and who thrive on solving next-generation networking problems. As Juniper Networks founder and current fellow Dennis Ferguson says, "Data movement problems persist. We need to keep building smarter boxes. There are still so many challenging things to do."