Juniper Channel Boss Vitagliano Heading 'Back to The Field' In New Americas Role


One of the IT channel's most well-known executives is about to regain a lot of day-to-day touch with Americas-based partners.

Frank Vitagliano, who until recently was senior vice president of worldwide channels at Juniper, is now Juniper's senior vice president of partners-Americas, giving him responsibility for all of Juniper's partner relationships in the geography.

It's a return to the Americas trenches for Vitagliano and his old-school, decades-honed approach to building channel relationships, just as competition for the data center between Juniper and titans like Cisco and HP ramps up.

"Americas is about 50 percent of our overall business. We've had a good year and the partners here that are committed to Juniper have had a good year," said Vitagliano in an interview with CRN. "So, we've decided to elevate the role and invest in a senior executive role to have responsibility for all the partners in the Americas. For me, it's going to get me back to what I really enjoy doing, which is back to the field. I'll be spending more time focused in the field, spending time with those partners and helping to drive that growth."

Vitagliano officially moved into his new role in late April, but is acting head of worldwide partners until a replacement is found. A Juniper spokesperson said both internal and external candidates are being examined for the role.

Vitagliano continues to report into John Morris, executive vice president, worldwide field operations. The report structure will likely change when the new worldwide SVP is found, Vitagliano said, with Vitagliano reporting to that person.

The roles of other top Juniper channel executives won't change. Both Blaine Raddon, vice president, Americas general business and channel sales and Kevin Hollenbach, vice president, service provider channel, will continue to report to Vitagliano.

Vitagliano's shift happens as Juniper looks to continue momentum spurred by growth in all of its channels and product lines, and its "New Network" messaging around new products and platform updates it made in October at the New York Stock Exchange.

Juniper's most recent quarterly earnings, including $912.6 million in revenue, were in line to slightly higher with most analyst expectations, and Vitagliano said that from where he sat, partner business was picking up.

At the J-Partner Summit in Phoenix later this month, Vitagliano said, Juniper partners will hear about expanded marketing resources, a partner learning academy and new sales incentives for selling Juniper switching promotions like the Switch to Juniper trade-up program it launched late last month. Partner opportunities thanks to Juniper's recent acquisition of Ankeena Networks will also be a hot topic, he said.

"Taking this Juniper value proposition to the next level doesn't just happen by itself," Vitagliano said. "The new network story -- making partners integrate our switching products into their switching portfolio -- is really an opportunity to dig in."

Vitagliano admitted that Juniper hadn't always been the best at driving its messaging home at a street level with its VARs.

"From me, they can expect consistency. I'm not out there changing the story every three minutes, and I know they've built their business around the vendor," he said. "When they decide to commit to Juniper they can bank on that fact."

VARs will see a more accessible, more street-level-committed Frank Vitagliano, he said.

"You have to drive the message into the street as effectively as you can," Vitagliano added. "You meet with them, you sit in conference rooms together, you do account mapping, you go after a certain set of customers, you look at how do you do more effective teaming with the Juniper direct guys. I call that the basics. I will continue to drive that."Juniper partners interviewed by CRN welcomed the idea of Vitagliano in a role much closer to them.

Keith Norbie, vice president of sales and vendor management for Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn. solution provider, said Vitagliano's return to the Americas sales trenches will benefit Juniper.

"Frank is a true channel champion," said Norbie. "He has great business acumen and understands how the channel works. Now it is a matter of setting the plays and executing."

The Juniper Americas offensive under Vitagliano comes with many channel partners looking for an alternative to Cisco, Norbie said. "Cisco is such an overly distributed product," he said. "Juniper is a voice of independence."

The move focuses Vitagliano's energies where they're best harnessed, other solution providers said.

"You take a guy of that caliber, and you're using him in a lot of different ways and you just decide to take him to channels in the Americas, well, that's a testament to Juniper's commitment," said Dave Gilden, executive vice president for public sector at Fishnet Security, a Kansas City. Mo.-based solution provider. "Personally, having known him for quite some time, the field is where he thrives."

Gilden was among several VARs who thought Vitagliano was ultimately spread too thin in his worldwide role.

"He's a field guy," Gilden said. "Being able to get into the field and meet with partners and take what he learns back to corporate will be a huge value. I was very excited to hear about the change."

Brian Wiser, senior vice president of sales and marketing for distribution giant Ingram Micro, agreed, saying the Vitagliano move is a case of the vendor putting “top talent where they see strong growth and upside.”

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“Frank brings a very strong sense of the channel and understanding of what partners need to grow their business,” he said. "He has great relationships in the channel, understands the needs of partners, and you want that person as external-facing as possible."