Don't Expect Juniper to Invoke Rivals at Confab

By Lawrence Walsh

The last week of April was busy for the channel. Cisco Systems was holding its annual partner conference in San Francisco. Simultaneously, Hewlett-Packard was in Las Vegas with its loyal followers. And each was talking up a storm about how they were going to take the fight to their rival, and that started a buzz that continues to reverberate through the channel.

Juniper Network was supposed to hold its channel confab that same week, which would have put it in the direct line of fire of its two larger competitors. But Juniper decided to shift its event dates to this week in Phoenix, where invoking some call to action against its two larger rivals is a minor consideration.

"It’s about the partners, not us," says Frank Vitagliano, senior vice president of partners-Americas at Juniper.

In meetings just before the opening reception of the partner conference at the palatial Arizona Biltmore, Vitagliano was reluctant to engage in brash talk about either Cisco or HP, preferring instead to talk about the successes of Juniper and its partners in switches, enterprise networking and security.

"Four years ago when we started this, we set out to build a deal where partners don’t need to guess where we’re going. They know our road map. And they know we’re not going to change everything every three months," he said.

On the Juniper event agenda is plenty of talk about new products, market opportunities and fresh initiatives to help partners reach new customers. Juniper will unveil the new Juniper Networks Learning Academy, an online training and education resource center that provides partners with access to information and self-paced training on the technology and market opportunities. And Juniper will announce the coming formation of Global Marketing Resource Center, through which partners will have access to customizable sales and marketing materials.

From Vitagliano’s perspective, Juniper is differentiated from competitors in the networking and data center markets by its willingness to partner with other vendors and be a piece of the larger, integrated solution set built by the partner. Juniper, he says, isn’t looking to force partners into artificial constructs, but rather earn a place in their solutions.

"The channel builds the ultimate solution, and those solutions are built with consulting, design, integration and support pieces. My focus is to be one of the vendors that get put into their solutions," Vitagliano says.

Juniper has advised its investors and Wall Street analysts that it plans growth at 20 percent or better in the coming year. Vitagliano says underlying Juniper’s plan is remaining relevant to its partners. While the company has developed vibrant relationships with other vendors such as IBM and Dell, and carriers such as Verizon, Vitagliano says Juniper needs to do more to support midmarket partners. Additionally, Juniper plans more general marketing initiatives to increase brand awareness and purchasing consideration.

This article was originally published on 2010-05-25