Juniper Promises 'Crisp, Clear' Communication On Trapeze Integration

Solution providers are urging Juniper Networks to be cautious as it integrates Trapeze Networks and other recently acquired product portfolios into its J-Partner channel program.

Caution is precisely what Juniper intends, said Steve Pataky, vice president of worldwide channel development.

"This is really about Juniper filling out the portfolio, but specifically thinking about, as Kevin [Johnson, Juniper's CEO] will say, we're pure-play networking and that's what it's about for us," said Pataky in a recent interview with CRN.

"Trapeze is about extending the customer experience, and looking back at Juniper for a long time, it makes sense," Pataky added. "Partners have been asking us about our wireless strategy for years, and now we're going to create more opportunities for partners in the campus and the branch."

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Thanks to the Trapeze acquisition, Juniper is now a wireless LAN player, which is something to which partners aren't accustomed. They aren't accustomed to Juniper as an acquirer, either. Before a recent string that netted Trapeze and several others, Juniper's last year of significant M&A activity was 2005, and there's a lot that's changed about the networking and infrastructure landscape since then.

Juniper's other 2010 acquisitions -- its April pickup of Ankeena Networks, its July acquisition of SMobile Systems, its November purchase of video storage and delivery assets from Blackwave, and its December grab of Altor, are hardly insignificant.

But it's the $152 million acquisition of Trapeze that's drawn the interest of many longtime Juniper observers. Not only was the acquisition long-rumored, but it also puts Juniper firmly in the extremely dynamic wireless LAN space, against competitors old and new. And many of those Juniper competitors have already gone on the offensive to downplay Juniper's WLAN viability.

First and foremost, the acquisition makes logical sense, Pataky explained.

"Trapeze is interesting because while it's a completely logical integration into our portfolio, we now have a set of skill requirements that we focus on as certain specializations for wireless LAN," he said. "We're looking at that right now as an incremental program component as we fully integrate the products, technology and partners."

Juniper mapped out a "very specific schedule of communication" to partners, Pataky said. The initial discussions are underway, and the next big milestone will be when Juniper closes the acquisition successfully, which is expected to happen in the current quarter.

"The number one issue we've communicated is, 'stay focused, and preserve the business,'" he said of Juniper's communication to Trapeze partners. "We're being very sensitive about how we look at wireless LAN in the overall product landscape, and we're enabling our field folks to have those conversations with the partners."

Next: Juniper's Plans For The Trapeze Channel

Juniper does not plan to make the Trapeze wireless portfolio generally available to the Juniper channel.

Present Trapeze partners enjoy an intimate channel program already. Earlier this year, Trapeze cut some 40 VARs from its program and elevated 11 to a new Platinum level of the program, and there are now fewer than 80 registered Trapeze partners total in the U.S. and Canada.

Pataky said the interest from Juniper partners in wireless LAN has been high, and that a "high percentage" -- he declined to provide exact figures -- have established wireless LAN practices already. Juniper will insist partners achieve specialization -- currently being developed -- to sell the Trapeze wireless LAN solutions.

"We count more [partners] than Trapeze, but many, many less than Cisco or HP," said Pataky, when asked about whether having Trapeze's products available to thousands more channel partners would overexpose them. "We've been cautious over the years. Wireless LAN really lends itself to specialization, and partners can really add value in the design and implementation. We're going to be really crisp and really clear in our communications, and do the right thing by the partners here and in the rest of the Juniper channel."

Several Trapeze products, including controllers and some access points, will be selectively rebranded as Juniper by the middle of 2011, and Trapeze software will be integrated into Juniper's Junos platform, according to Juniper. Assuming the acquisition closes without delay, the next communications to partners, Pataky said, will be about mapping Trapeze partners into the J-Partner program.

Juniper partners told CRN in recent days that the Trapeze buy will be a positive for Juniper, although it will be some time before Juniper's strength as a wireless LAN vendor will be clear.

Terrapin Systems, a San Jose-based solution provider and Juniper partner, was already a partner of Trapeze before the acquisition. The Trapeze portfolio should round out the portfolio nicely, said Chris Becerra, Terrapin's vice president of sales.

"I can only speculate why they decided to do it, but one reason is to hedge against the thought that we run into a lot of customers looking to deploy a lot more wireless," Becerra said. "So they're hedging their bets against losing business to the specific wireless guys. Trapeze isn't one of the bigger players, and it's sort of minor for us right now, but it's a positive."

"We have a lot of close relationships with the executive suite at Juniper -- they're by far our second largest partner -- and they finally have all the products they can go to market with, so we're excited," said James Marsh, senior vice president, Carousel Industries, an Exeter, R.I.-based solution provider.

That said, Carousel's wireless business is up north of 300 percent year-over-year this year, Marsh said, and it maintains strong relationships with Aruba Networks and Meru Networks on the vendor side.

"I don't foresee that changing," Marsh said of Carousel's partnerships with Aruba and Meru. "So I'm sure the Trapeze story will become more prevalent for us, but right now, we have two very solid partners already."