Vitagliano In Juniper Hot Seat

Vitagliano, a well-known channel executive and a 33-year IBM veteran, is moving to what partners say is, by comparison, a maverick upstart with serious field-engagement problems.

One Juniper partner, who requested anonymity, said he has decided to move business from Juniper to Cisco Systems because of the “reactive” nature of Juniper’s field reps. “They are understaffed in the field,” said the partner, whose Cisco sales have quadrupled over the past year while his Juniper sales have plummeted. “Cisco has 50 reps in the field for every three reps that Juniper has and Cisco brings us into opportunities. With Juniper, it’s a one-way street.”

Another solution provider, who came on as a Juniper partner when the company acquired security vendor NetScreen in mid-2004, said he has seen that part of his business drop 50 percent since Juniper bought the company. He, too, blamed the sales drop on poor execution in the field. “They don’t want to work with us,” the solution provider said. “They want us to bring them orders. That’s it.”

Steve Pataky, director of worldwide channels at Juniper, conceded that Juniper has issues to resolve in the field. “It is still an issue. We are aware of that,” he said. “You can have great programs in place, but the support the partner gets in a deal from the individual rep or [sales engineer] is the final taste in that partner’s mouth.” Pataky said Juniper is still a young company in the channel and improving field engagement “is a top initiative for 2006.”

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Vitagliano takes over for Tushar Kothari, a Cisco channel veteran who moved to Juniper in 2004. Kothari told CRN last week that he is leaving Juniper to pursue as-yet-undecided entrepreneurial opportunities. But channel sources told CRN that Kothari is leaving his post because he isn't getting the channel buy-in he wants from the rest of Juniper. Kothari is the fifth high-level executive to depart from Juniper since December.

Eddie Minshull, executive vice president of worldwide field operations at Juniper, said he does not expect a shift in channel strategy with Vitagliano coming on board. “I don’t consider anything broken,” he said. “It is a question of emphasis now, of taking things to the next level in quantity, quality and building on the work that Tushar [Kothari] has done.”

Minshull said he expects Vitagliano to add more large-scale systems integrators in the United States and small business-focused partners. “We need partners with a range of capabilities and reaches,” he said, noting the quality of Juniper’s products and solutions depends on having a “credible, scalable partner network.”

Minshull added: “I see our partners as an extension of our own business where we operate in an environment of mutual trust, respect, clear rules of engagement, and go out and create business together in a very exciting market.”