Time and the IT industry have witnessed the emergence of a company that consistently delivers innovative technology, only to see that vendor continually place a distant second or even third against competitors in a particular category. Nowhere does that scenario play out more than in the networking infrastructure segment dominated by Cisco. Network infrastructure provider Juniper Networks is seeking to change the story line to its advantage, and the channel will be a key part of the plan.

At an IDEAS/Connected Partner event this week, Juniper Networks promised partners that in 2016 they could expect to see the company concentrate in earnest on the channel. That strategy includes new data center specializations, a new solutions design track within the Juniper channel program and the expansion of the company’s Partner Learning Academy, said Matt Hurley, corporate vice president for worldwide partner and field marketing.

Of course, Juniper Networks and its partners are distracted this week dealing with fallout from code that had created a backdoor in the company’s firewalls. But once Juniper Networks puts that issue behind it, Hurley said, partners should expect to see the company squarely focus on sales enablement across its channel as part of an overall strategy that has seen Juniper post respectable financial results in 2015.

While Juniper Networks has made investments in the channel over the years, the company’s primary focus has tended to be telecommunications carriers and Internet service providers. As networking becomes more critical in the age of the cloud, however, Hurley is signaling that Juniper Networks sees an opportunity via the channel to gain share in classic enterprise IT accounts. That may be a tall order, given the level of existing competition in this category already. But products won’t sell themselves, no matter how advanced or innovative they may be. To that end, if Juniper Networks wants to expand its share of the market, it clearly needs to double down on the channel in 2016.

In the meantime, networking as we once knew it is rapidly evolving. Inside many organizations white-box switches running network functions virtualization (NFV) over time will transform how network services are delivered. That doesn’t mean the entire market is heading in that direction. But it does mean that there will be enough disruption in the status quo for Juniper Networks to make some headway provided, of course, its partners have the tools and incentives needed to drive change in channel trenches where most enterprise IT deals are won and lost.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for more than 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.