Juniper Hopes New Channel Program Says It All: Partner Advantage

Juniper Networks kicked off it first-ever global partner conference in Las Vegas Tuesday with a reiteration of its key message: that cloud computing and mobility are reshaping the IT buying landscape and that Juniper's architectural vision will best equip partners for the challenges wrought by the data center, the campus and branch office, and other areas of the transforming network.

Addressing about 1,050 partners on-site and thousands more via streaming video, Juniper also said it had revamped several pieces of its partner program under a new offering called Partner Advantage and that it would launch new sales incentives and marketing resources representing its biggest-ever investment in channel partners.

In the eight months since Juniper's last Americas partner conference, Juniper has seen its share of stumbles, from partner grumbling over performance issues with its SRX series services gateways -- mentioned on stage by Bob Muglia, executive vice president, software solutions, and Stefan Dyckerhoff, executive vice president, platform systems -- to a round of layoffs in the fall and a recent warning that its fourth-quarter 2011 revenue would come up short due to weak service provider demand.

Still, said Kevin Johnson, Juniper's CEO, the company is comfortably on a growth course. Juniper overall grew 15 percent year over year, and Johnson said its partner ecosystem had grown 10 percent, with certifications for Junos, Juniper's operating system, also having increased since the previous year.

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QFabric, Juniper's big bet for data center transformation, is among several newer Juniper products seeing traction, Johnson said. More than 35 million mobile devices are now protected by Juniper's Junos Pulse security and management software and more than 690 organizations are using Juniper's Junos SDK to build applications.

"We are at a point where Juniper has the richest product portfolio in the history of our company," Johnson said.

Lauren Flaherty, Juniper's executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said Juniper had capitalized on the gains made by its massive marketing revamp a year earlier. The attacks on Juniper by rivals such as Cisco -- which took aim at Juniper with a multifaceted marketing campaign last fall -- only serve to validate Juniper's relevance, Flaherty said. Inbounds to Juniper's corporate Web site actually spiked following that campaign, she said.

"We are the challenger brand in this category," Flaherty told partners. "The market is ready; the market is eager for choice and alternatives."

NEXT: Juniper's Retooled Partner Program

Juniper partners will greet the next few sales quarters armed with new sales rewards and marketing offers, company executives said.

Juniper's Partner Advantage program, a retooled version of its overall channel partner program, now offers three elements. Partner Advantage Reach is a sales and technical training program offered through Juniper's Learning Academy, and it includes new accreditation based on Juniper's network architecture. Partner Advantage Accelerate offers Juniper partners marketing collateral and demand-generation tools, including a way to access those tools via an iPad application. Partner Advantage Reward covers changes to the way Juniper will compensate partners, and includes new rebate incentives and boosters for partners that identify and register new business for Juniper.

On the marketing side, Juniper has continued to invest in on-demand marketing tools such as the InnoVAR series of Webinars it launched last summer. At the partner conference, it also took the wraps off Marketing Concierge, an online portal where partners can access marketing materials, interface with Juniper's marketing team and receive tailored training on how to use tools such as video and social media to build their marketing presence.

"Juniper will do the heavy lifting," said Luanne Tierney, Juniper's vice president, worldwide partner marketing. "We want to give you that marketing advantage and a fast start for momentum in the marketplace."

Tierney later told CRN that the tools reflect how to market in a "SoMoGlo" world where communications need to be social media-minded, mobile-minded, and globally impactful.

Tierney and Steve Pataky, vice president, worldwide partner development and programs, also confirmed that Marketing Concierge and the other new program elements were available at no cost to registered Juniper partners.

The revamp suggestions came from Juniper's partners, Tierney and Pataky said, and are based on feedback from Juniper's worldwide partner councils.

"If you go on that journey with us and get good at new network architectures and expert in domains, that's how we're going to align with our customer segmentation, and you as a partner need to be rewarded for doing that," Pataky said. "It's not just trying to overhaul the partner program; it's all based on what's happening in the market."