Posted by: Peter Burrows on November 8, 2005
Juniper clearly knows how to sell networking gear. It’s been stuck in high-gear in recent years, winning hefty helpings of market share, not to mention a 90s-style valuation from investors.
But Juniper is also expert at a certain kind of public relations—the kind that involves using its much larger rival Cisco Systems as a stepping stone to raise its own profile. It did this with a seemingly endless series of Far Side-style print ads that poked fun at Cisco. And now comes word that Juniper has hired Michael Lynn, the security expert who became a cause celebre in July when he aired details of a vulnerability in Cisco’s routers at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. Having been warned that he’d be sued if he gave his talk, Lynn decided to go ahead anyway, quitting his job with consultancy Internet Security Systems before taking the stage.
Lynn’s hiring took me by surprise, given a conversation I had a few days ago with a Cisco executive about Lynn’s job prospects. Mike Turnlund, Cisco’s director of engineering, recalls watching a webcast of Lynn’s presentation, and the feeling of sadness that came over him as Lynn began disclosing his details. Turnlund figured the twenty-something Lynn was ruining an otherwise promising career, in exchange for his fifteen minutes of fame. “I thought ‘poor kid.’ We all knew he was cooking his own goose.”
Until Juniper came to the rescue, that is. While a Juniper spokesperson won’t say what Lynn is doing for the company, she insists he was hired for his skills and talent, not because he’s a cult figure among Cisco critics. Maybe that’s true—but only partially.
Juniper is also expert at a certain kind of public relations--the kind that involves using its much larger rival Cisco Systems as a stepping stone to raise its own profile.