We're The Innovator: Juniper Sharpens Its Partner Focus, And Its Axe

Juniper's top executives said Tuesday that they would pull out all the stops to make sure partners are confident selling, leading and partnering with Juniper. They also used the opening keynote sessions at Juniper's J-Partner Summit in Phoenix to set their most publicly aggressive tone in ages against heavyweight competitors Cisco and HP.

"We're focused on one thing, and it ain't Flip cameras or Palm smartphones," said Lauren Flaherty, executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "The network is the only thing for Juniper."

Flaherty's presentation, which came at the end of four hours' and 19 Juniper executives' worth of discussion, was the most explicitly competitive in tone. But rare was the Juniper executive who didn't make a reference to Juniper's strengths and its growing Americas business, or that its architectural approach to "flattening the network" -- that is, create a single data center fabric and the technologies to support it -- isn't an opportunity to take share from its 800-pound gorilla rivals.

Andy Ingram, Juniper's vice president of product marketing for fabric and switching technologies, cited research from IDC stating that if enterprises removed one tier of their traditional data center networks, they could realize a collective savings of more than $1 billion in IT spending a year.

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"Most of that $1 billion would come from the market leader, which would rather go into the server business than flatten the network," Ingram said, to a chorus of claps and cheers in the keynote room.

Other executives emphasized the partners-first tone.

"Our events aren't about us, they're about you," said Frank Vitagliano, senior vice president of Americas channel sales for Juniper, echoing comments he made to CRN Monday describing Juniper's decision to move its partner conference away from the same week as conferences hosted by Cisco and HP last month.

Juniper's Americas partners have some of their best ever opportunity to advance the Juniper brand, he said, and Juniper was adding new marketing, training programs and sales promotions to backstop those efforts.

"I want all us to get to the point where all of you are leading with Juniper," Vitagliano said.

All of Juniper's executives emphasized the importance of partner profitability. According to Vitagliano, Juniper partners have a $14.7 billion market opportunity in the Americas, which expands to $36.8 billion with services attached.

Mike Harding, vice president and general manager of Junos Space, said partners should also be looking at how they can work software -- including the application platform Junos Space and the client-side Junos Pulse platform -- into their sales strategy.

"We'd like to cultivate you as a community," Harding said, noting the increasing ranks of app developers cottoning to Junos.

"Lead with Junos," added Peter Boit, senior vice president, global enterprise sector. "It provides value and it opens doors."

Along those same lines, Gerri Elliott, executive vice president of strategic alliances, updated attendees on the Junos Innovation Fund, which was first announced in February and according to Elliott was "inundated with requests."

Juniper will invest $50 million in the fund, whose applicants, she said, are down to a short list of 130 companies.

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Service provider sales will also prove crucial, argued Vince Molinaro, senior vice president of global service provider sales, who described how Juniper had identified major channel business opportunities in selling to second-tier and third-tier service providers.

Once the province of Juniper's direct sales force, the more than 2,000 small-to-midsized service provider customers represent a $3.5 billion addressable market for Juniper's channel in the Americas alone.

Many of those service providers have network and security infrastructure that's best described as "gnarly," said Kevin Hollenbach, vice president, service provider channel. That's a market opportunity Juniper's channel can own, he insisted.

"Don't take share from each other," he said. "Take share from the 1,000 Cisco Gold partners who were in San Francisco a few weeks ago."

Overall, the executives said, they were heeding the channel call to put a clearer, stronger go-to-market strategy behind Juniper's accomplished technology.

"The IT industry is littered with the corpses of companies that had great technology but failed to define a go-to-market approach," said John Morris, executive vice president of worldwide field operations.

Flaherty urged partners to buckle down with Juniper and become even more of a challenger. If you chip away and don't back down in the face of much bigger competitors, you can change the industry, she said.

"Let that noise happen over there," she said, describing the "tit-for-tat" rivalry between Cisco and HP.

But at the same time, Flaherty said, "find the weakness" of the bigger competitor.

"And remember," she said, in a reference to Cisco's ongoing supply chain issues. "We can ship the goods."