Partners To Juniper Networks: Dump Security, Focus Reorganization Around SDN

As Juniper Networks undergoes a reorganization, which includes some layoffs, partners are asking the vendor to leave behind its security business and refocus innovation on its bread-and-butter networking and its software-defined networking (SDN) portfolio.

"Customers have moved away from looking at Juniper as a serious security contender with the others that are out there – like Palo Alto Networks and Fortinet," said one CEO from a solution provider who partners with Juniper and declined to be named. "They need to seriously consider what they should do with their security piece, but I think they should focus their effort on switching and routing and building software around that to enhance those technologies."

Several partners said their overall Juniper business declined around 10 to 15 percent in 2016 year over year in part due to a lack of security sales.

[Related: Cisco Hires Juniper's Top Technologist To Lead Service Provider Networking Group]

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The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor reported $318 million in security revenues for 2016, representing a 27 percent decrease from 2015.

But Juniper's channel chief, Matt Hurley, defended the company’s security strategy.

"As a company, we're completely committed to the security market," said Hurley, vice president of global channel sales. "We've announced our software-defined secure networks strategy. We've brought in innovative products on the back half of 2016 to market that further that platform, and we're seeing the average security deal size expand."

Juniper’s software-defined secure networks platform combines policy, detection, and enforcement with a product portfolio that centralizes and automates security.

"They've struggled with the security business," said one top executive from a solution provider and Juniper Elite partner. "They've regularly had big announcements every year or two [about] refocusing on security and go through how they're doing. They seem to struggle to deliver on a lot of the stuff they're hoping to do in the security space."

Juniper announced a new organizational structure this month, aiming to increase alignment between strategy and execution that it said would accelerate innovation. The reorganization saw the departure of Juniper's CTO and Engineering CIO, Gary Clark – who became CIO of Tesla -- as well as Jonathan Davidson, the company's executive vice president and general manager of Juniper Development and Innovation, who is now at Cisco.

The company created a new position of Strategy and Product Line Management with the promotion of Kevin Hutchins, who had previously been responsible for Juniper's business development and strategy through organic and inorganic growth.

With the new structure, Juniper has also confirmed layoffs but did not give an exact headcount to CRN. Business Insider reported that Juniper was set to cut around 700 jobs out of its 9,800 employees.

Juniper CEO Rami Rahim said in a statement that the changes enable Juniper "to double down on innovation."

Partners hope Juniper's reorganization strategy enables it to refocus investment and innovation around networking and software.

"With the reduction in traditional data center, they know they have to put more emphasis on what they can do in the cloud," said Dominic Grillo, executive vice president of Atrion Communications, a Branchburg, N.J.-based solution provider and Juniper partner. "That piece of their business will continue to grow and that is what's going to help offset security and the fact that data centers aren't getting built at the same size or capacity as frequently as in the past."

Grillo said Juniper's networking infrastructure portfolio is "really solid" around switching and routing. Juniper's routing sales increased nearly 12 percent in 2016 over 2015 to $858 million, while its switching sales stayed stagnant at $2.35 billion.

The vendor's SDN strategy, which includes Contrail, is starting to get "more traction" in the market in 2017, according to partners. Juniper's service business in 2016 jumped 13 percent to $1.46 billion year over year.

"They've always been a strong technology company in terms of the operating system and ability to do scripting and automation – you're starting to see more of that pickup in the enterprise, and that will help as well," said Grillo.

With the recent changes, partners said Juniper is lacking a clear message to the channel around its strategy going forward.

"I'd like to hear that the messaging gets down to their local teams and to us as to what that strategy is and how we can effectively executive on that strategy," said the unnamed CEO who partners with Juniper. "I'd like to see them further innovate in their switching and routing and stay focused on those because they really do well in those areas."