Juniper Partners Have Mixed Feelings Over CEO Johnson's Departure


Juniper partners are expressing a range of reactions to the unexpected departure of Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson this week.

For some partners, a fresh set of eyes at Juniper's helm has never sounded more appealing. For others -- especially those who are seeing an uptake in their Juniper business -- Johnson's departure was an unwelcome surprise.

"I thought [Johnson] did a good job," said Pat Grillo, president and CEO of Atrion Communication Resources, a Branchburg, N.J.-based Juniper partner. "I'm very happy with their program, in general, and the products seem to be doing what they're supposed to be doing. Our sales with them have been increasing year-over-year."

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Grillo said his Juniper business was up 20 percent year-over-year, despite his business, as a whole, being slightly down in 2012.

"Am I concerned that somebody might come in and try to change things? Absolutely," Grillo said.

Juniper announced this week that Johnson, Juniper's CEO for the last five years, is retiring from the company once a successor has been named. Juniper said in a statement that Johnson will continue to serve "in his current capacities" until the transition to a new CEO is complete.

Johnson has seen Juniper through its series of ups and downs. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company is still catching its breath after a challenging couple of years, marked by a broad restructuring, hundreds of layoffs, and a number of high-level executive departures.

Juniper's financial standing has stabilized over the past few quarters, but reports of the company unsuccessfully chasing a sale of its enterprise assets emerged in full force this year.

But, Grillo isn't alone in seeing growth in his Juniper business. Another solution provider and Juniper partner, who asked to remain anonymous, said he's "seen success" across the entire Juniper line.

"Our [Juniper] business has been doing very well. In fact, it's one of our fastest growing lines, and we just came off one of our best quarters ever with Juniper," said the partner. "I would say, for us right now, Juniper continues to be an up-and-comer."

The partner did note, however, that he was surprised by Johnson's departure and wonders if Juniper is "hitting the reset button" in light of a flat stock and the many executives it's lost over the past two years.

"I wish Kevin [Johnson] well in whatever he plans to do, but it is important to keep a fresh set of eyes coming in," the partner said.

For some Juniper partners, a shake-up to Juniper's leadership team seemed long overdue. David Lesser, president and CTO of Nexum, a Chicago, Ill.-based Juniper partner, said Johnson's departure didn't come as a surprise, given the decline he's seen in his Juniper business over the past five years.

"I can honestly say that, over the last five years, I don't think Juniper has done a single thing correctly," Lesser told CRN. "And for the last five years, my revenue in Juniper has gone down. So for [Johnson] to have survived five years, when every possible move they made was wrong, ... I mean, I just have nothing good to say."

Lesser, who became a Juniper partner through Juniper's 2004 acquisition of NetScreen, said his Juniper revenue has plummeted 50 percent over the past five years. Lesser attributed the drop to the lackluster debut of Juniper's SRX services gateway line and the fact that Juniper shelved many of the legacy NetScreen security devices it came into through its acquisition.

Lesser also noted that it's become difficult to do business with Juniper, given the high turnover rate he's seen among its field sales team.

"There has been such turnover in their field, that we can't even maintain relationships," Lesser said. "We don't know who is working where in any way, shape or form because these guys don't last long."

Lesser said Nexum has built up an entire Juniper "ecosystem" over the past nine years, with both a managed services and training practice in place today. He added that he was still impressed by some Juniper products, like its SSL VPN remote access security appliances, and will continue to partner with Juniper in the future. Nexum is, however, pursuing partnerships with other networking vendors.

"[Juniper] is going to get some stuff right, and their relationship is still important, but I brought on another switch manufacturer, Arista, and partnered with Cisco for the first time in my 11-year history this year," Lesser said.

As for a new Juniper CEO, Lesser said he would welcome a newcomer, but knows that decision lies with Juniper's board.

"To me, it's a flip of the coin now," Lesser said. "It could go either way."

PUBLISHED JULY 25, 2013