Sneak Preview: What To Expect From Juniper's Partner Summit

Executive changes at the top of vendor channel programs generally don't have a direct effect on the day-to-day lives of partners. Unless a new channel exec was brought in to overhaul a program, most partners just shrug and go about their business.

That's what happened last month when IBM channel veteran Frank Vitagliano replaced Tushar Kothari as Juniper Networks' vice president of worldwide channels. Though the turnover was newsworthy, it didn't change the way partners worked with the company, at least not yet.

"That kind of thing doesn't affect us much; the CEO [Scott Kriens] is the visionary at Juniper," says Garry Jackson, CEO of Suntel Services, a solution provider in Rochester Hills, Mich. "It would have a much greater impact if he moved on."

By and large, partners are more concerned with the vendor representatives they work with every day.

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"We've been dealing with Tushar's people, not with Tushar, so the executive move wouldn't affect us unless it also changed the downstream personnel," says Steve Fuller, CTO of NetWorks Group, a security integrator and consultant in Brighton, Mich.

That doesn't appear to be the case at Juniper; under Vitagliano, all the executives who were in place when he arrived will have essentially the same roles. But now that Vitagliano has been at his new job for just less than a month, and with Juniper's partner summit just a few weeks away, on May 1 to 2 in Las Vegas, the company's partners are putting together a wish list of things they hope to hear about at the event.

"The No. 1 thing they need to address is a programmatic way to deal with margin protection," Fuller says. "There's not much structure around their policy when it comes to new deals and renewals, so they need a more comprehensive deal-registration policy."

VARBusiness caught up with Juniper's new channel chief earlier this week at the company's headquarters in Silicon Valley. (Vitagliano will oversee the program from his home in Atlanta when he's not traveling.) He says his first three weeks have been spent reaching out to partners. He's already aware of the deal-registration issues and has begun to strategize how best to handle it.

"It's really hard to control," Vitagliano says. "In the world I came from, you were dealing with tens of thousands of transactions on products with little or no margin. This is a totally different deal, and we want to protect partners' investments."

Other partners who are eager to capitalize on the services boom would like to see more of a commitment from Juniper.

"I'd love to get as much information as possible about what they're going to do with MSSPs and how they plan to engage the field with their go-to partners," says Rich Tear, president of CSCI, a systems integrator in San Diego. "The partner summit certainly is timely, and I'm sure I'll talk to Frank before then, but I don't know if the conference will address managed services as much."

He's probably right about that.

NEXT: What Vitagliano needs to learn about managed services.

"Honestly, I'm very familiar with managed services from the world I lived in, but I don't understand it as well in this world," Vitagliano says. "That's something I need to learn in a very short period of time. I'm a big believer in the concept, because having a strong business model is predicated on having a steady revenue stream. Even though this space still has pretty strong margins, partners need a steady revenue stream. What I don't understand yet is how we can help them build a model that works best. In three months, I'll have a much better understanding than I do today."

What partners can expect from the Las Vegas event is to get to know their new captain and to hear what his priorities are in the coming months. Vitagliano says his top four goals are to grow revenue, improve the ease of doing business with Juniper, continue to invest in J-Partner training and enablement, and continue enhancing the relationship between Juniper, its direct team and the channel.

"I'll talk a lot about philosophy, our go-to-market strategy, what I think our priorities are, how we plan to execute and what we're still working on," he says. "They're walking into the room with no question about our technology. When they walk out of the room, there will be no question about what the partner program is about and that we're totally committed to the channel. If I wasn't convinced that this was a company that's totally focused on continuing to drive their business through a solid channel program, I wouldn't be here."