Juniper needs the channel for enterprise, government push

For most of its time in Canada, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) has focused on selling its routers, switches and security appliances to service providers – so much so that roughly three-quarters of its sales go to carriers, operators and ISPs.

However, after a management shake-up it’s now aggressively trying to get business here from enterprises and governments.

“We plan on being in front of every [enterprise] customer we can,” Andrew Zupsic, the new senior vice-president for enterprise sales in the Americas, said Wednesday in an interview in Toronto. “We’ve never made a push like we are right now.”

In three years he hopes to make the service provider-enterprise sales split 50-50.

To make this push, though, Zupsic doesn’t forsee a big change in Juniper’s Canadian channel strategy or the number of partners. “Any changes I would make would just be tuning our coverage and technology training so that they are world-class.”

Zupsic is here for a two-day meeting with Canadian staff, customers and partners. He said one thing he’ll ask partners is what they need. “We have to have them to cover Canada,” he said.

“As we continue to peel back the onion on Canada to find out what the offerings we need, what kind of partners we need to supplement our offerings, I’ll go out and make sure we have those partners and that they are world-class, or I’ll find partners who specialize in that.”

Although he’s been on the job barely five weeks after leaving Microsoft Corp., where he was vice-president of sales for Latin America, Zupsic has already decided that Juniper’s technology and products aren’t the problem with enterprise sales. Rather, he said, it’s a matter of delivering Juniper’s message better.

“I don’t think we’re thinking big enough,” he said. Corporate IT managers are asking Juniper to engage and deliver solutions, he said. However, he said, “I’m not sure yet our sales people are saying, ‘Wow, I can help my customer in many ways.’ Sometimes we get too satisfied winning a product deal.” Instead, Juniper staff should be emphasizing the solutions the company can offer to help CIOs and IT managers achieve their businesses’ goals.

As service providers around the world hold back on spending, enterprise sales are increasingly important to Juniper. Last year the company’s worldwide revenues dropped seven per cent compared to 2008, with sales totaling US$3.32 billion. But enterprise sales were up 11 per cent, while service provider business dropped 14 per cent.

However, an industry analyst says merely getting in front of customers won’t be enough to boost sales.

Jason Bremner, IDC Canada‘s network equipment analyst, said that Juniper is at times seen by enterprises as being not price competitive as its main opponents, who include Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and 3Com Corp. (which is in the process of being swallowed by HP).

Others have told IDC they have trouble integrating Juniper products with some network environments, while some companies complain that it’s hard to find support staff with Juniper expertise. Others, he said, may feel they don’t need gear built to carrier-class standards, while many don’t see the need yet for Juniper’s layer 4-7 application management switches.

“When you have perceptions like that it does present an obstacle.”

Sales of Juniper security equipment to enterprises are in good shape, but according to IDC only five per cent of router sales to Canadian enterprises in Q3 2009 came from Juniper. One problem, Bremner said, is that Juniper lacks a mid-range router. As for switches, only one per cent of switch sales came from Juniper in Q3 2009, although the company has only been selling switches for less than two years.

Still, he said, “I do believe they have an awareness issue in Canada.”

As part of the strategy, Juniper has separated executive responsibility for service provider and enterprise sales in order to better push corporate and government sales. Canada had been under the jurisdiction of a vice-president for the Americas, which excluded the U.S. That limited access here to certain specialists. Under the new corporate structure the Americas now includes the U.S., which means staff here can take advantage of expertise on the other side of the border.

In addition, John Dathan, who had been director of sales for Canadian enterprises, has been elevated to general manager. In effect, said Zupsic, Canada is now a separate branch within the company. The staff here totals 85, of which 20 are in sales. That will increase, says Zupsic.

“We’ve made a bet that John and his team are going to drive very strong growth and give good customer satisfaction in Canada,” he said.

Dathan, who was leading Zupsic’s tour, acknowledged that until 18 months ago Juniper had a narrower number of products, which hurt the company. Today it has a broader portfolio, he said.

He also said that enterprise IT managers aren’t as familiar with Juniper’s Junos operating systems as service providers are. Instead, they know the operating systems that ran on older Juniper security equipment, another hindrance to sales. However, today most Juniper hardware runs on Junos. Once managers understand that and see the advantages of Junos, Dathan said, sales are easier.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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