Partners: Vitagliano Moving To Hot Seat As New Juniper Channel Chief

Vitagliano, a well-known channel executive and a 33-year IBM veteran, is moving to a maverick upstart by comparison, one with serious field engagement problems in its channel, according to solution providers.

One Juniper partner, who asked not to be identified, said he has decided to move business from Juniper to Cisco because of the "reactive" nature of Juniper’s field reps. "They are understaffed in the field," said the partner, whose Cisco sales have quadrupled while his Juniper sales have plummeted. "Cisco has 50 reps in the field for every three reps that Juniper has and Cisco brings us into opportunities. With Juniper it's a one way street."

Another solution provider, who came on as a Juniper partner when the company bought security vendor NetScreen in mid-2004, said he has seen that part of his business drop 50 percent since Juniper bought the company. He, too, blamed the sales drop on poor execution in the field. “They don’t want to work with us. They want us to bring them orders. That’s it,” he said.

“They’re a mess,” added another Juniper partner. “They’ve had a tremendous amount of attrition. It’s caused a lot of frustrated partners and a lot of disrupted business. They came out of the chute blazing guns, with good people in place, some nice acquisitions, but things have fallen apart. I’ll be curious to see if he can get it under control. They do have some good products.”

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Steve Pataky, director of worldwide channels at Juniper, conceded that Juniper has issues to resolve in the field. “It is still an issue. We are aware of that,” he said. “You can have great programs in place but the support the partner gets in a deal from the individual rep or [sales engineer] is the final taste in that partner’s mouth,” he said. Pataki said that Juniper is still a young company in the channel and is working toward improving field engagement: “This is a top initiative for 2006.”

As CRN first reported Tuesday, Vitagliano will replace Tushar Kothari, a Cisco channel veteran who moved to Juniper in 2004 follwing the acquisition of NetScreen. As did Kothari, Vitagliano will report to Eddie Minshull, executive vice president of worldwide field operations at Juniper.

Kothari Wednesday told CRN that he is leaving Juniper to pursue as yet undecided entrepreneurial opportunities. But channel sources told CRN that Kothari is leaving his post because he isn't getting the channel buy-in he wants from the rest of Juniper. Kothari is the fifth high-level executive to depart from Juniper since December.

Still, channel executives commended Juniper on Vitagliano’s appointment. “I am sad to see Tushar [Kothari] leave, but I am impressed with Frank Vitagliano,” said Rich Tear, CEO of CSCI, a San Diego-based security solution provider that partners with Juniper. “I haven’t met Frank personally, but everything I have read about him and everything I’ve heard sounds like he is a coup for Juniper.”

Vitagliano is a “pillar in the vendor community,” said Steve Raymund, chairman and CEO of distributor Tech Data, which currently does not carry Juniper products. “He is a tireless advocate of the channel and he’s worked on our behalf very successfully. He’s a great guy, incredibly knowledgable and Juniper is very lucky to have him.”

Vitagliano’s task at Juniper will be to continue along the path that Kothari began, Minshull said. "I don't consider anything broken," he said. "I think it is a question of emphasis now of taking things to the next level in quantity, quality and building on the work that Tushar [Kothari] has done."

Minshull said he expects Vitagliano to add more large scale systems integrators in the U.S. and small business focused partners. "We need partners with a range of capabilities and reaches," he said, noting the quality of Juniper's products and solutions depends on having a "credible, scalable partner network."

"I see our partners as an extension of our own business where we operate in an environment of mutual trust, respect, clear rules of engagement, and go out and create business together in a very exciting market," he said.

Steven Burke and Scott Campbell contributed to the story.