Juniper boss Rami Rahim: Cloud a goldmine for telcos

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The chief executive of US networking giant Juniper, Rami Rahim, says Australian telcos are sitting on a goldmine, as they move away from relying on traditional business models towards becoming cloud-based powerhouses.

Juniper’s working relationship with Telstra extends to almost two decades, working with the telco’s engineers and executives on its networking infrastructure, and Mr Rahim said Telstra was tackling the same challenges facing many of its global peers.

The volume of data traffic travelling on mobile networks was ­accelerating and the core value of what it means to be a telco was ­undergoing a change, Mr Rahim said.

“They’re forced to essentially become cloud providers, and I think they’re sitting on a goldmine,” he said. “It’s hard for any telco to differentiate just on connectivity, and that’s certainly taken to a whole new extreme here with the ­National Broadband Network.

“The need now is for telcos to leverage their mobile networks to the fullest and I think there are a lot of locations very close to the consumers, from which they then move on to being service providers of new and compelling services.’’

Mr Rahim said telcos willing to invest in value addition were the ones that would make the transition to a 5G-enabled world. It’s a shift that Juniper and its rivals such as Cisco and Ericsson are also tackling, as they switch from selling hardware to pushing software ­solutions.

In Australia for the local opening of Juniper’s first OpenLab site, Mr Rahim said the initiative highlighted that traditional equipment providers needed to rethink what they could offer their customers. The lab serves as a resource where partners, customers, start-ups and students can refine, develop, test, demonstrate and validate solutions.

“All of our customers are recognising that the big answer to the challenges they face in the market today have to do with automation, and transitioning to cloud-service delivery models,” he said.

“They have to defend from the disrupters in the market and try to understand how others do it, and Juniper, by virtue of all the verticals we work with, we understand this stuff better than anyone else.”

According to Mr Rahim, whether Juniper is working with a large telco, government agency or enterprise firm, there are lessons applicable to each and OpenLab is the right vehicle to teach them.

“Our customers are in there literally learning new skills, coding, creating prototypes for projects that really move the needle for their business,” he said. “There are tools that would save a company millions of dollars by automating something that in the past was done through manual labour. They feel trapped in doing this manual work, and being in the OpenLab is about getting ahead of the disruptions happening across industries.”

Juniper has OpenLabs in California, New Jersey, Amsterdam, London, Singapore and Tokyo. A location in Melbourne is set to open next year.

Mr Rahim’s personal journey at Juniper is one of immense transition as well. He started as employee No 32 at Juniper, an engineer when the company was at the top of its game. The company’s share price in 2000 was close to $US200 and selling gear was great business. Juniper’s shares today hover around the $US30 mark, and after a series of lay-offs and cost-cutting, things are on an even keel.

Mr Rahim took the reins in 2014, as he puts it with “no real track record” to rely on.

“I take those lessons throughout that journey and relationships I’ve built to help me do my job as effectively as possible today,” he said. “I really consider myself very fortunate to be in this position, to lead a company in an industry I have such a passion for.”

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