Software-defined networking (SDN) upstart Big Switch Networks has named ex-Juniper Networks (JNPR) top exec Douglas Murray to its chief executive slot, as co-founder and current chief Guido Appenzeller steps aside to take on the chief technology officer role.

The move came one day before entrenched rival Cisco Systems (CSCO) prepared to announce its Insieme SDN solutions in New York.

Murray held a number of key executive spots at Juniper, including Data Center Security Business senior vice president and general manager, and Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China senior vice president. He is credited with restructuring Juniper’s A/P operation and gaining a number of competitive wins, as evidenced by a 25 percent growth in 2012 in enterprise switching as well as a doubling of routing portfolio-generated sales. In addition, with Murray as general manager of Juniper’s data center security business, the company’s market share in data center firewalls grew to 52 percent in 2011 from 28 percent in 2008.

Big Switch believes Murray’s go-to-market experience in data center networking will help the two-year-old company bring SDN into the IT mainstream. SDN simplifies networking (IT admins gain central network control without physical access to hardware) and holds the promise to commoditize networking equipment. If SDN takes off, hardware segments of the market controlled by Cisco (CSCO) and others could diminish in importance.

“With Doug, we have found the right CEO to take Big Switch to the next level,” said Appenzeller. “His breadth of data center expertise led him to resonate with our goals for SDN, and his go-to-market experience is just what the company needs in this next phase of growth. His recent Asia experience has given him a front-row seat to the most highly evolved market for SDN, and we could not be more thrilled with our choice. We are confident he is the right person to lead us forward.”

Prior to Juniper, Murray served as Extreme Networks’ (EXTR) Volume Products Group general manager, where he presided over the launch of 12 new products and a transition to Broadcom-(BRCM) based silicon. Before Extreme he held various positions in business development, marketing, sales and product management at Sun Microsystems and AT&T (T).

Murray served as an Altor Networks board member when the company was acquired by Juniper in 2010 and FireEye (FEYE) when it went public this year. Currently he holds a board seat with Jaega Software.

Big Switch’s Open SDN solutions support network virtualization for public and private cloud data centers built on OpenStack and other platforms. The privately held company has raised $45 million in investment capital from Intel Capital, Index Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Goldman Sachs and others.

In February, Intel (INTC) said it had invested $6.25 million into the company in an add-on to a $25 million Series B funding originally disclosed last October. A year ago, Big Switch shipped its first open source SDN products, including network virtualization and network monitoring applications.