Juniper Brings On Cisco's Kothari As New Channel Chief

Juniper on Thursday began notifying partners that Kothari joined the company earlier this week in the newly created role of vice president of worldwide channels. Juniper is also filling out its sales team with the addition of Bob Bruce, another Cisco channel veteran, as vice president of Americas channels and Neal Oristano, formerly of 3Com, as vice president of Americas sales.

In addition, Juniper confirmed that Mark Smith, vice president of worldwide corporate sales, will be leaving the company after an undetermined transition period.

Kothari said in an interview with CRN that he was drawn to the Juniper job by the strength of the company's technology portfolio and the "clean slate" he will have to work with in building up the vendor's channel strategy.

"The position the company has, the growth potential and my personal ability to make a difference in the outcome here are some of the key factors that attracted me to Juniper," Kothari said.

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Kothari brings expertise to Juniper's channel team that could prove crucial to the company's efforts in challenging Cisco in the enterprise market, solution providers said. While at Cisco, he helped engineer a channel renaissance that included a complete restructuring of the networking giant's partner strategy.

"I don't think it's any secret that Juniper certainly has Cisco in its sights as being its biggest competitor--really the only competitor with the some scope," said Dan Wilson, vice president of vendor relations at Accuvant, a solution provider in Denver, " 'Know thine enemy' comes into play here, so hopefully [Kothari] will bring some insight into how Cisco does things."

Using Juniper's new J-Partner channel program as a base, Kothari said he plans to build a durable, sustainable partner program that rewards partners for adding value and helps solution providers develop profitable services practices.

"[J-Partner] provides a foundation from which we can now enhance and put more meat around the bones of the program. So my first priority is to evaluate that, offer refinements and develop infrastructure so we can execute this strategy," he said.

In doing so, Kothari aims to draw on his extensive channel experience. As vice president of channels at Cisco, he was credited with spearheading the company's shift from volume-based to value-based rewards for its channel partners in 2001. He left Cisco's channel organization in August 2002 after a five-year tenure to lead the company's SMB product business, and most recently he served as vice president and general manager of sales and marketing at Cisco's Linksys division.

Bruce, an eight-year Cisco channel veteran, who previously served as Cisco's vice president of U.S. channels and vice president of worldwide service provider partners, came out of retirement to accept the new role at Juniper. He will report to Kothari. Oristano, formerly 3Com's vice president of North American sales, will report to Jim Dolce, executive vice president of worldwide field operations at Juniper.

Smith came to Juniper earlier this year through the company's $4 billion acquisition of NetScreen Technologies, where his duties as vice president of worldwide sales included heading the security vendor's well-respected channel program. His departure, likely to come by the end of the year, was prearranged at the time of the NetScreen acquisition, Dolce said.

Juniper's J-Partner program, launched last week, earned praise from solution providers for maintaining the best elements of the NetScreen partner program developed under Smith. The NetScreen acquisition, which brought a new portfolio of enterprise security products and about 400 channel partners to Juniper, has quickly catapulted the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company beyond its traditional carrier-focused customer base. Including NetScreen, about 80 percent of Juniper's sales come through the channel, Dolce said.

Juniper's next enterprise push comes this fall, when it is slated to begin shipping its J-Series Services Routers, the company's first foray into the enterprise access router market.