Juniper Partners: Vitagliano Leaves Big Shoes To Fill

Juniper Networks confirmed Tuesday that Frank Vitagliano, senior vice president of Americas Partners, is ending his seven-year run at the company on March 31. Meanwhile, Juniper partners said they are "eagerly" awaiting word from Juniper on Vitagliano's successor, and hope his departure doesn't slow the momentum Juniper has gained in the channel over the past two years.

Vitagliano, who did not immediately respond to CRN's request for comment, is a longtime channel vet whom many solution providers credit with building Juniper's channel nearly from scratch. He also represents the latest in a series of executives who have left Juniper in recent years, including fellow channel exec Blaine Raddon, who made his exit almost a year ago to date. Among Vitagliano's most recent accomplishments at Juniper was the rollout of the company's new Partner Advantage Program, alongside senior vice president of worldwide partners Emilio Umeoka and the rest of Juniper's channel organization. The program represented a complete overhaul of Juniper's existing partner program, offering solution providers an expanded lineup of Juniper Learning Academy resources and the Juniper Networks Product Promotion Catalog, among other new resources and initiatives aimed at growing partner margins.

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Ryan Young, co-founder and COO of TorreyPoint, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based solution provider and Juniper partner, considered Vitagliano a driving force behind Juniper's overall channel strategy and applauded his efforts in shaping Juniper's North American channel program, particularly after its 2004 acquisition of NetScreen. "I think [Vitagliano] walked into a situation where he was educating a company that was focusing on service providers and just entering the channel market. The sales cycles and sale methodologies were really different then," Young told CRN. "It was a matter of really building a channel program from the ground up, and Frank did a phenomenal job, taking really great strides and successful leaps year after year."

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John O'Shea, senior vice president of Vology, a Tampa, Florida-based solution provider, also praised Vitagliano for righting Juniper's channel strategy, and being such an advocate for partners.

"I met Frank first when he was working with IBM many, many years ago. From a channel perspective, there is certainly nobody from my point of view that really understood how to work partners as well as Frank," O'Shea said. "He was excellent at the job and he certainly represented Juniper very well."

O'Shea said Vitagliano especially helped improve the lines of communication between Vology and Juniper's channel organization.

"We have been a [Juniper] partner for a couple of years now, probably close to two-and-a-half years. Initially, we had a bit of a bumpy start from a communication standpoint, but Frank got engaged there and had a personal relationship with our CEO," O'Shea said. "He certainly communicated openly with us."

NEXT: Vitagliano's Successor

In an internal note distributed by Juniper's Umeoka and obtained by CRN, Umeoka said Juniper was considering both internal and external candidates to fill Vitagliano's role. Partners said they are anxious to learn who this successor will be and, while disappointed to see Vitagliano go, are confident in the rest of the Juniper channel team.

TorreyPoint's Young said with Umeoka, for instance, still in the ranks, Juniper should be able to continue to grow and support its channel.

"[Vitagliano leaving] will provide opportunities for some folks who have been around Frank, and understand the methodologies, and have been working with him for over a decade or more -- I'm pretty confident [Juniper] will be able to fill the hole with some of that talent," Young said. "Whenever you lose your kind of quarterback of the system, or the surgical engineer that really makes that system run, certainly you always have to wonder, 'Are those other folks going to be able to step in and be the quarterback from that channel?' I believe that they can be."

Chris Becerra, vice president of sales at Terrapin Systems, a San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider, said he thought Luanne Tierney, Juniper's vice president of partner marketing and former channel executive at Cisco, would be a strong potential replacement for Vitagliano.

"I think she would be fantastic; she seems like she has a lot of energy," Becerra said. "I'd really like to see her [take on the role]. And she has a networking background … which I think is essential."

Frank Kobuszewski, vice president of Technology Solutions Group, a Syracuse, N.Y.-based Juniper partner, agreed that Tierney is a strong contender for the position and a "big advocate" for the channel. "They've got some really key channel people that are still there," Kobuszewski said.

Vology's John O'Shea agreed that Juniper has the in-house channel expertise to help compensate for Vitagliano leaving. But he said the sooner partners hear something from Juniper, in terms of who is taking over and when, the better.

"Any time you have somebody with Frank's experience that is leaving, it causes a bit of a pause. However, we have a pretty good support structure in place from Juniper at this point," O'Shea said. "I would suggest, the sooner we hear something about the plan, the better. The less downtime from a communication standpoint, the better."