Cisco, Juniper Rivalry Heats Up With Ingram Deal

Juniper is a welcome addition to the channel for solution providers frustrated by falling margins and Cisco's complex certification requirements, said Tommy Wald, president and CEO of Riata Technologies, a Cisco-certified partner in Austin, Texas.

"There is opportunity for another player. Hey, Cisco tells us that when they bring in other partners, so what's good for the goose is good for the gander," Wald said.

Although Juniper is a fraction of the size of Cisco, it has proved to be a spunky rival in the service provider router space, grabbing about one-quarter of that Cisco-dominated market. Now Juniper is taking that fight to the enterprise front through its acquisition of NetScreen, the launch of an enterprise router line, a new channel program and the hiring of former Cisco executive Tushar Kothari as vice president of worldwide channels.

Some solution providers said Cisco is taking steps to ward off Juniper's advances.

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"They are doing things to protect themselves. That's why they're paying so much attention to me where they haven't before," said Pat Grillo, president of Atrion Communications Resources, Branchburg, N.J., a partner of both Juniper and Cisco. "Just about every week I've got somebody from one or the other talking to me."

In its effort to take share from Cisco, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper also had planned to name Tech Data as a distributor, but Clearwater, Fla.-based Tech Data turned down the offer late in negotiations, distribution executives said.

While some solution providers wondered if Cisco influenced Tech Data's decision not to pick up Juniper, Tech Data President and COO Nestor Cano said that was not the case.

"I don't think Cisco twisted our arm. We still sell other networking vendors," Cano said. "Juniper is a great company, but we have a lot of other vendors so we don't think it would work at this stage. We're still independent, and we make our own decisions. We carry Extreme, Nortel, Enterasys, and HP, in addition to Cisco already."

Ingram does not expect conflict from carrying the two companies because they have different marketing strategies, said Paul Bay, vice president of vendor management at the Santa Ana, Calif.-based distributor. "Juniper is just entering the market," Bay said. "We have conversations about broadening their reach and establishing ties. With Cisco, we have a well-developed relationship."

Authorization of both Ingram and Tech Data would have benefited solution providers and Juniper, Grillo said. "It's good to have two sources because if you're up against a credit issue with one, you can go to the other," he said.

Cisco has left a door open because Juniper offers top-quality products with higher margin opportunities for partners than does Cisco, said Luis Laranjeira, vice president of business development at McLean, Va.-based SMS Data Products Group, a government-focused solution provider that works with both vendors.

"Juniper has an excellent opening here to fill in where Cisco has left off. In every bake-off we've had, [Juniper has] been the clear winner," Laranjeira said.

MICHAEL VIZARD contributed to this story.