Juniper Channel Chiefs: Follow Through On Software

From marketing muscle and product launches to acquisitions and Wall Street appreciation, Juniper has never had the proverbial wind at its back like it does now. That means not only momentum for the company, but an important opportunity for Juniper's channel chiefs to set the right tone with partners and help them capitalize on that momentum.

Which, to hear Juniper's Emilio Umeoka and Frank Vitagliano tell it, is precisely what the challenger networking vendor will spend this year doing.

With opportunities abundant in the Juniper channel in the networking, infrastructure and security arenas, Juniper's ship is steering toward software, and how VARs can capitalize on the explosion of opportunity in cloud computing and mobility using what Juniper's brought to bear for technology.

"Five years ago, we were basically a security partner," said Vitagliano, senior vice president, Americas partners, in an interview with CRN at Juniper's Americas Partner Conference in Phoenix this week. "That's what we really had. But many partners have gone from a security-oriented focus to a network infrastructure focus. The next evolution will really be the software opportunities we have. We won't force that on partners. That'll be predicated on the model the partner has in place. But we will facilitate it. They'll migrate to where they have the opportunity to make money, and that's what it's all about."

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In Phoenix, partners had the opportunity to hear that vision from a number of Juniper executives, who spent much of the conference exploring how they plan to motivate Juniper's solution provider base behind it. The Junos platform, and its various flavors, from client-side Junos Pulse to across-the-network Junos Space, can create what Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson described as "the platform effect"-- more applications made attractive to customers, more customers leading to more deployments, more deployments leading to more applications.

That effect, tied in to Juniper's advances in networking and the data center, is a monster partner opportunity, executives said.

Umeoka, who was named senior vice president, worldwide partners earlier this year, extolled the virtues of "innovative partnering" and said he and Juniper's channel team would focus on partner coverage, funding, enablement, marketing, partner rewards, communications and business-to-business interaction.

He will also try to help partners looking to drive more value through services, an area, Umeoka said, where solution providers can make $2.60 for every $1 spent on Juniper networking products.

"A lot of things can happen," Umeoka told CRN in a later interview. "We have new muscle in software, we're building up our communities, we're looking at the right coverage models. For partners, there is no single solution. What are the sweet spots and the areas they can be more competitive -- we're going to show them where the technology's going to be and our investments to make that happen."

It's on Umeoka, Vitagliano and Juniper's channel team to connect those dots for partners: how to drive opportunities in those various technology segments with what Juniper has brought to market, how to leverage Juniper marketing to reach those opportunities, and how to turn profits for themselves as strategic Juniper solution providers.

"We want to be a major strategic vendor that partners are leading with," Vitagliano said. "If you want that to take place, you have to step up and do things that partners are doing and that they want you to do."

Next: Juniper's Tighter Alignment Between Channel, Marketing

Juniper's marketing prowess, which has grown leaps and bounds in the past 18 months and is seeing a multimillion dollar resource injection from the vendor, is the new arrow in Juniper's quiver, Vitagliano explained.

"We brought in marketing muscle that we never really had before, and people who are really good at it now," he said. "People like Luanne [Tierney] coming over, that's a big deal for us. Partners have been telling us, 'OK, it's time for you guys to step up a little bit. We're getting there. Back four or five years ago, we were in our infancy with being a channel partner and knowing what needs to be done. You couldn't put all that function in place overnight."

Umeoka and Vitagliano both mentioned better partner enablement resources, including Juniper's recently debuted Continuing Education Program, as areas where Juniper has improved. Vitagliano added that Juniper plans to double the number of Juniper representatives in the field whose job it is to serve that enablement.

"One issue a lot of partners had with us last year is that they felt like they got technical support from us, but felt like it was more transactional than designed to be specifically enabling," he said. "These folks are going to be in the field, and what they do is only partner enablement. These are the guys who run the lunch-and-learns, who set up the seminars, who make sure the technical teams for the partner know which Web site to go to and where to get a white paper. Portals are good, but sometimes you just have to have face-to-face people in the street doing that kind of job."

Watch for Juniper's channel and marketing teams to become even more deeply entwined, the executives said. Tierney, who joined Juniper from a highly visible partner marketing role at Cisco back in January, is driving the bus on a lot of that engagement, and partner events "will become part of her charter," Umeoka said.

"I would say Luanne spends more time with me than with Lauren [Flaherty, Juniper's chief marketing officer]," Umeoka said. "She's part of our extended leadership team."

"Luanne, obviously, has a lot of relationships out there from her previous role," Vitagliano said. "She came to me and said, there are a lot of partners I know, but I'm not just going to reach out. I want to engage with your field guys to get me to those partners."