Juniper Networks eye Australia as an AI market opportunity

As competition between telcos ramp up, Juniper Networks believes companies will begin to look at AI as a key differentiator.

Juniper Networks is watching the Australian market closely, believing that rising competition within the local telco sector will result in new business opportunities for the company.

Speaking to ZDNet during a visit to Sydney last week, Juniper Networks CEO Rami Rahim explained how the National Broadband Network (NBN) has forced service providers to rethink their business models, which he believes will ultimately have a positive knock-on effect for providers such as Juniper.

"The NBN has essentially taken broadband access and revenue streams away from the service provider. Service providers are really, in many cases, forced to do what service providers around the world need to do, but to do it with more urgency and even faster – look for new revenue streams," he said.

"This is why the push towards 5G here is so intense. But it's also why many of the telcos here are looking for new differentiators, added-value drivers that they can bring to bear with their enterprise customers, and why there's been such a warm reception [to us] thus far."

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The Australian market, according to Rahim, makes up a "large component" of the APAC market, which alone makes up approximately 18% of total business for the network solutions provider.  

Juniper Networks SVP and Mist Systems CEO Sujai Hajela agreed, believing service providers will use artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to get ahead of competitors.

"The only way [Australia's] economy can continue to go up is automate, automate, automate, because unlike some other countries, you don't have a lot of labour, and even if you had, there may not be the skills set.

"As it moves towards more and more of a services economy, with the fundamentals of scarcity of human resource, you have to depend on automation.

"There's a lot of focus on automation and that's amazing. And it's not because they want to do it, it's because it is required."

Conveniently, AI and automation has recently become a key interest area for Juniper, having acquired Mist Systems, makers of wireless LAN network powered by AI, for $405 million in March.

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Rahim said the decision behind the acquisition was not to just plug a wireless-LAN gap in the portfolio, but to also expand its portfolio to include an AI-driven IT network as part of its existing software-defined enterprise portfolio and multicloud offerings.

"At Juniper, we have for a very long time understood the value of simplifying networking. We do so through automation. And ultimately, I think AI is the fundamental ingredient in realising that vision," he said.

"What Mist has done is demonstrate with real, tangible evidence and real customer success, that applying artificial intelligence and automation to the campus wireless-LAN network is absolutely possible.

"Now, what we want to do is we want to take that recipe that they have created and apply it across our broad portfolio. We'll start within the enterprise environments. But I think there is an opportunity to go from wireless-LAN to security, to SD-WAN within the enterprise, and then even to the broader, wider network. That is the ultimate vision."

Hajela touted that with Mist System's AI-driven virtual network assistant, Marvis, businesses have achieved cost savings of up to 35%. "That is huge saving, right to the bottom line. Once you have that foundational network then enterprises can start offering differentiated experiences," he said.

But it's not just the telco sector either that will need automation and AI, according to Rahim. He said AI-powered networks are crucial for every industry that currently spends a majority of their time on low-value work.

"If you talk to the average CIO, and ask them, 'What is your major pain point?' They're going to say I spend 90% of my time keeping the lights on to keep the network running … and while they're doing that, their budgets are not going up but the demand to innovate is tremendous," he said.

"If your budgets aren't going up, and 90% of your resources are stuck in just keeping the lights on, what are you going to do? Well, the answer, we believe, is to create more room within your team to focus on the game-changing stuff. Let the machines run the network and let the machines figure out how to troubleshoot a problem when it occurs – automatically."

Tuesday 27 August, 2019 3.19pm AEST: A correction was made to the statistic that was provided by Juniper Networks CEO about what portion the APAC market accounts towards the company's total business. It was originally reported as 80%. 

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