CRN Interview: Scott Kriens, Juniper

Juniper Networks finds itself at a jumping-off point as it prepares to host its first Partner Summit this week in Las Vegas. Chairman and CEO Scott Kriens recently spoke with Infrastructure Editor Jennifer Hagendorf Follett about progress the company has been making in its channel efforts since entering the enterprise market a year ago. Excerpts of the conversation follow.

CRN: What's your overarching message going to be to channel partners attending the Juniper Partner Summit?

Kriens: Why are we winning and how do we win more from here, because clearly the Juniper formula is working. The results both financially as well as from a market-share or marketplace point of view all stake that claim. We exceeded expectations on the first quarter of the year and we raised our guidance for the second quarter, so those are proof points behind the winning ways.

CRN: In terms of the market-share gains you're seeing, are those primarily on the security side or are you seeing gains with the J-series enterprise routers as well?

Kriens: We're seeing it in the routing product line in total, and we're certainly seeing it across the security portfolio. Partly it's point products in some examples, but as much as anything it's really the power of the portfolio. That's part of what gives us our confidence. There is no single point of strength in this; it's diversified across a variety of [areas].

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CRN: Can you give some more detail on how you're doing in that enterprise routing space, which is relatively new for Juniper?

Kriens: We're very pleased with the progress thus far. The very low-end routers, the J-series, have just begun shipping for revenue purposes in the last three months, and a couple of things are happening. We're seeing a lot of trialing and a lot of acceptance of the J-series, but even more powerfully, we're seeing it pull through other products in the existing product line, what we call our M7i and M10i products, which are larger routers. People's exposure to the J-series and Juniper's routing products in general has made them aware of the reach of the product line, and there's far more of that product line that's applicable to the enterprise market than one might think.

CRN: How challenging has it been for you to build up the channel around enterprise routing since most of the partners you've started with have more of a security focus?

Kriens: Well, it's been easier for me than it has for Tushar [Kothari, Juniper's vice president of worldwide channels]. [Laughs] Actually, it's been easier for me because of Tushar. Clearly, the security focus that came with the product portfolio prior to adding the routing infrastructure brought more resellers with that expertise, and there are still many of those who are very successful and that's the extent of their strategy. But there's a growing number of resellers who are taking the leverage that's available by being seen strategically by their customers and looking for more product and more solutions to bring them, so we're seeing that cross-pollinate with routers and security in both directions.

CRN: Can you assess the level of success you've had thus far in challenging Cisco in the 'Juniper vs. Cisco' argument that seems to go on?

Kriens: The most useful thing I can offer on this subject is that we actually don't look at it that way. We don't place way up on our priority list what competitors of ours are doing or whether Juniper is winning against those competitors or not. We think the market-share gains and the growth of the business speaks for itself. The reason we've been able to grow the business and grow market share when others are not able to do that is because we stay focused on the customers and the partners. The partners are winning and the customers are making their choices and that's adding up to growth and success for us, and whatever that happens to mean to the competitors, I'm sure they're spending more time worrying about it than we do.

CRN: It's hard not to make the comparison, though. You've entered the enterprise routing market, you've got several ex-Cisco executives running your channel program, and you've got lots of other ex-Cisco personnel on staff. It's obviously a question your partners are facing.

Kriens: Oh, yeah, the comparison is out there to be made by many, and my point isn't to say that the opportunity to draw the comparison doesn't exist. My point is more that it isn't what we spend our time doing. Others do, and rightfully so. If we take our attention and put 100 percent of it on customers and partners and opportunities, then the competition takes care of itself.

CRN: What's the message Juniper partners can take to the market when they're asked how your routers stack up against Cisco's Integrated Services Routers, which offer integrated features such as security and VoIP?

Kriens: Some of the feature capabilities you talked about are only valuable if you intend to remain captive to a proprietary product line [where] the integration isn't meant to be open integration—with all the choices you could make in switching and VoIP and other things—it's meant to be proprietary and integrate only with products from the same product line. So what we're doing with J-series and with our whole approach to this market is essentially to liberate both the partners and the users so that integration decisions are the ones that they make rather than ones made for them by equipment vendors.