Meru Networks Names New Global Channel Chief

Meru Networks Wednesday confirmed Gary Abad as its new vice president of channel sales. Abad, who most recently was vice president of channel sales at Kaspersky Lab, replaces Cindy Cole Sauvignon, who departed the $85 million wireless LAN specialist in December.

Abad brings Meru about 20 years' worth of channel experience. He was North America channel chief at Kaspersky from October 2010 to January 2012, and before that spent a year as vice president of channel sales at F5 Networks and a year as vice president of channel sales at Polycom. Earlier in his career he spent five years as a sales director at Motorola and eight years at Novell.

Abad will be responsible for growing Meru's channel partner program and managing support for Meru's nearly 1,000 worldwide partners in one of the networking industry's most competitive markets. Meru competes head-on with bigger players such as Cisco, Aruba and Hewlett-Packard, which according to research firm the Dell'Oro Group are the No. 1, 2 and 3 players in enterprise wireless LAN market share, respectively. Meru also is threatened by smaller, channel-savvy competitors such as Ruckus Wireless, not to mention other large networking vendors with recently acquired wireless LAN practices, such as Juniper and Adtran.

In a statement, Abad said that Meru would maintain its focus on partners, whom he described as the "backbone" of its growth in 2011. Meru said Wednesday that in 2011 it grew channel revenue by 20 percent year-over-year and that channel partners account for 93 percent of its overall product shipments.

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Sauvignon, then Cindy Cole, had joined Meru as channel chief in May 2010. A Meru spokesman declined additional comment to CRN on the reason for her departure at the time.

Executive changes have been frequent at 10-year-old Meru, which is still searching for a new CEO following an October announcement that Ihab Abu-Hakima would step down. Abu-Hakima, who had been CEO since January 2005, oversaw aggressive channel growth behind Meru's virtualized 802.11n wireless technology, and a successful IPO in 2010. Meru's stock price has continued to flounder since then, but in a January interview with CRN, Abu-Hakima said Meru -- oft-mentioned as an acquisition target -- has the right growth strategy.

"I am pleased with where we are," he said. "The stock price will go up, and come down, but in the end it will reflect what we believe will be the execution of our strategic plan. I am not concerned with the short-term status of the stock price."