When buying IT, agencies need choice
- By Joab Jackson
- Mar 17, 2004
Dubhe Beinhorn, Juniper's instant winner
Juniper Networks Inc. in December tapped Dubhe Beinhorn to head its new federal unit.
By year's end, the Sunnyvale, Calif., vendor's federal vice president had announced her first big sale: a spot on the Defense Information Systems Agency's Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion project. Juniper was one of four vendors initially tapped to support the high-profile project.
Beinhorn has more than 25 years of experience in the enterprise computing industry.
Before joining the Juniper sales team in 2001, she was general manager of the public-key infrastructure hardware and software division of SafeNet Inc. of Baltimore. She also has held sales and marketing positions at Harris Corp. and Xerox Corp.
She holds a bachelor's degree in business from Roanoke College.
GCN associate editor Joab Jackson interviewed Beinhorn at GCN's offices in Washington.GCN: Where were you when you found out Juniper won a spot on the Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion program?
BEINHORN: I learned in September that we were chosen for interoperability testing. That was the largest gate to get through. That was when we knew things were looking good.
I was pulling into my garage, talking on my cell phone. I lost the signal about halfway up the drive because I live on a hill in the woods. It was about 5 p.m. on Sept. 13.
We were invited to go to the interoperability test in New Jersey. At this competition there were about 55 equipment vendors. In the process, GIG-BE program managers pared them down through a series of technical gates.
They took us through a bake-off, putting us up against our competitor. Essentially, they tested for what you claimed your technology could do in your bid response, testing for things like IP Version 6 capability, Multiprotocol Label Switching and throughput.
The next step was to be called up for equipment evaluations.
They made it very clear that the testing in the bake-off was nothing compared to the interoperability testing. The vendors went to New Jersey. AT&T Corp. was conducting the test on behalf of Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego, which is managing the procurement for the Defense Department.
The government announced the final selections on Dec. 30. I was sitting in my house on the Chesapeake Bay, waiting for the phone call.GCN: What is Juniper providing for GIG-BE?
BEINHORN: We supply what they call the provider routers and provider edge routers. We are in the core of the network and at the edges.
[The other winners of GIG-BE indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts so far are Ciena Corp. of Linthicum, Md., for optical transport equipment; Qwest Communications International Inc. of Denver in partnership with Cisco Systems Inc. for multiservice provisioning platforms; and Sprint Corp. for optical cross-connect equipment.]GCN: What was the reaction of your new federal office?
BEINHORN: This was a home run, a touchdown. This was a competition that we'd known about for 24 months.
We've been in the government business for about three years.
Juniper started up in 1996, and the federal work began in earnest around 2000. We've won several contracts from that period until now.
Our federal customers include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the Defense Research and Engineering Network, and quite a few intelligence agencies.
We expect additional business as a result of GIG-BE. There are several networks that have to tap into GIG-BE, including the Defense Department's Business Systems Modernization and any number of additional systems that have to plug in.GCN: What aspects of your products were critical to winning and, quite frankly, how did Juniper beat Cisco?
BEINHORN: Very carefully. Cisco has been an incumbent vendor in the government space for quite some time. When the government started buying routers in earnest 10 years ago, Cisco was the only game in town. That landscape has changed.
One of the reasons Juniper won is that the government has recognized it needs an alternate source. Like in anything else, when you have only one supplier, you start to wonder if you would not be better served by multiple suppliers'for multiple reasons.
National security, price control, lifecycle cost control'all those things go into the equation. You wouldn't want to put the national security communications infrastructure in the hands of a single vendor.
I think one reason that Juniper emerged on top of the technical stack was our ability to scale. GIG needs to evolve over time. The government is not going to allocate this much money and then do a forklift upgrade in two years. So whatever products they have selected need to be able to scale with the increase in bandwidth.GCN: Cisco's products are scalable, too. What is the difference?
BEINHORN: The routers were evaluated to support an OC-192 or 10-Gbps network. DOD needed lots of room in them to add more bandwidth. In that aspect, Juniper's latest products are more scalable than Cisco's products right now.GCN: How did you get started in the IT business?
BEINHORN: I started with Xerox Corp. back when the world was moving from typewriters to word processing. I was at Xerox when it introduced Ethernet. I worked for a number of companies in the communications field because after a while I figured that was where I needed to be, that was where the future was.GCN: IT still seems to be an industry dominated by men. Is this something that has affected you?
BEINHORN: I really don't think about whether this is a male-dominated industry. There are people who believe that. There are people who also believe that the federal environment may be more male-oriented.
You might surmise that it would be a little bit more challenging for a woman, but my personal experience is that this has made no difference. It is about technology. I have never found being a woman to be positive or negative.GCN: Where do you see the field of telecommunications heading?
BEINHORN: If you follow the Defense Information Systems Agency's long-term plan, it's heading into space. Maj. Gen. James Bryan, until recently vice director of DISA, has described a five-tier network development plan. And the top tier is space.
At some point in the future, we will theoretically have routers in space. It's an interesting proposition.GCN: What have you found different about selling to government agencies as opposed to selling to commercial users?
BEINHORN: The federal market takes a little bit longer to get through a sales cycle. Service providers outside the government tend to move a little more rapidly. They're profit centers, whereas I wouldn't consider the government a profit center.
Typically, government networks spend their money wisely. They are smart about longevity, so you don't see many two- or three-year implementations. Typically it will be an eight- to 10-year implementation. And they are crafting their specifications to accommodate what today's requirements are and then what the requirements will be in 10 years.
I don't mean to disparage either market. On the commercial side, things move at a faster clip. In the government, they move at a slower clip but evolve more gracefully over time.
From a personal perspective, I have found the federal marketplace to be enormously appealing. It's a high-risk, high-reward situation, which is where any good salesperson will tell you is the place to be.