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Juniper CEO Urges End To Status Quo

Juniper Networks Chairman and CEO Scott Kriens offered a bit of advice for his channel partners: Seek out customers that are ready for change.

Speaking this month at Juniper's inaugural Partner Summit in Las Vegas, Kriens advised partners to qualify sales leads by quickly assessing whether customers are open to change or are married to the status quo, one of many veiled references to rival Cisco Systems.

In the latter case, move on, Kriens said.

"You have to find a person that's ready to listen, that's a change agent. Then it will work," Kriens said.

It's a message that resonated with some partners attending the conference, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor's first since entering the enterprise market via its acquisition of NetScreen Technologies a year ago.

Jack Higgs, president and CEO of Westron Communications, a solution provider based in Carrollton, Texas, said it's essential to train his sales force not to waste time on unlikely prospects.

"Our job is to go back and train our people to ask questions and [proceed based] on the answers they get. If the customer hesitates for a second, say, 'Thank you for your time,' and get out of there," Higgs said.

Kriens also said Juniper would not follow Cisco in its pursuit of a broad technology portfolio.

"We can't afford to spread across a lot of fronts, spread lots of messages. Then we fall into the hands of enemy strategy, if you will, trying to do too many things," he said.

However, the company has already begun an expansion of its product lines.

On May 2, Juniper closed its acquisition of application-acceleration vendor Redline Networks, announced at the end of April, as well as its acquisition of Kagoor Networks, announced in March. Its acquisition of Peribit Networks, also unveiled in April, is expected to close next quarter.

Juniper is also tackling the VoIP market through an expansion of its partnership with Avaya, Basking Ridge, N.J. The two firms have entered a strategic partnership that will include joint product development and sales of each other's products and services.

Tushar Kothari, Juniper's vice president of worldwide channels, said the companies plan to develop complementary products, including Juniper routers and security products that work with Avaya's VoIP portfolio.

"We don't believe customers have to do a forklift upgrade of their voice networks," Kothari said. "They need routers and security products that work with their existing voice environment," he said.

Channel plans around the expanded partnership are under development, Kothari said, noting that the partnership is not exclusive. He also said Juniper has not decided whether to bring on new Avaya-focused distribution partners, such as ScanSource's Catalyst Telecom and Westcon's Voda One.

Some solution providers attending the conference said they hope the Juniper/Avaya partnership will lead to tighter ties between Juniper and Extreme Networks, which has an extensive partnership with Avaya.

Such a partnership could help plug holes some solution providers see in Juniper's product story created by its lack of a network-switching portfolio.

Jeff Hiebert, president and CEO of ROI Networks, a San Juan Capistrano, Calif., solution provider that works with all three companies, said he'd like to see some of Avaya's VoIP capabilities integrated into Juniper's routers to better compete with Cisco's Integrated Services Routers, which include integrated VoIP, security and wireless capabilities.

"If you go in with a kick-ass router that only does routing, that's going to be seen as a pretty narrow focus," Hiebert said.

Also at the conference, Juniper launched new partner tools aimed at easing the way partners do business.

New tools include the J-Partner Online Marketing Agency, which enables partners to quickly create marketing campaigns, as well as Virtual Demo Lab, slated to launch June 1.

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