July 23, 2004 3:31 PM PDT

Juniper poaches Cisco execs

Juniper Networks has hired two former Cisco Systems executives to lead a newly developed channel program, as the company readies itself to take on Cisco in the enterprise.

On Thursday, Juniper announced that it hired Tushar Kothari, a former Cisco channel executive, to lead its worldwide sales and distribution channel team. A channel is a group of resellers who sell and distribute products. The company also announced that it hired Bob Bruce, another Cisco channel veteran. Bruce will be vice president of the Americas channels. Heading up sales in the Americas will be Neal Oristano, formerly of 3Com. Oristano will be vice president of sales in the Americas.

Selling gear to large companies is brand-new territory for Juniper. Up until its $4 billion acquisition of security company NetScreen Technologies, it had been entirely focused on selling equipment to Internet service providers and telephone companies. Now the company is looking for growth in new areas.

Last week, Juniper reported strong results for the second quarter of 2004 due to sales of its traditional IP routers. But to keep growing the business, the company needs to get into new markets, analysts say. NetScreen has provided the first step into the corporate market. Juniper will use the channel program to increase sales of these products as well as push new homegrown products, such as the J-series enterprise routers, which go on the market in September.

"It will be a long and slow process for Juniper to build out its enterprise channel," said Mark Sue, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. "But it's necessary for them to expand and grow their revenues. You can't fight against Cisco, which has a huge installed base, with good products alone. You need long-standing relationships with resellers."

Juniper has already been successful selling to carriers and service providers through partners such as Siemens and Ericsson.

"The channel has always been important to Juniper," Kothari said in an interview. "However, its strategy has clearly focused on a handful of partners targeting service providers. Now there is a need for broader channels."

Kothari, who will head up this effort, has some experience in building channels. In his most recent role at Cisco, he served as vice president and general manager of Linksys, the home-networking division of Cisco. Linksys gear is sold 100 percent through channel partners such as small resellers or retailers. Prior to that position, Kothari was vice president of Cisco's worldwide channels from 1997 to 2002.

The road toward building a successful enterprise business for Juniper will be tough, analysts say. Cisco already has strong partnerships and an installed base of resellers loyal to the company. More than 90 percent of all Cisco products are currently sold through its channel partners. Paul Mountford, senior vice president of worldwide channels for Cisco, succeeded Kothari as head of the sales channel, and for the past two years, he has continued to build a strong organization. Cisco recently announced a new partner program to focus on small and midsize businesses.

"I don't think Cisco is going to sit still," said Erik Suppiger, an analyst at Pacific Growth Equities. "I think they'll intentionally compete in such a way that inhibits Juniper's chances for success."

Joining Kothari's channel team is Bob 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. Neal Oristano, formerly 3Com's vice president of North American sales, will report to Jim Dolce, executive vice president of worldwide field operations at Juniper.

Mark Smith, who was named vice president of worldwide corporate sales at Juniper after the acquisition of NetScreen earlier this year, will be leaving the company, according to Juniper executives. Smith's departure was prearranged at the time of the NetScreen acquisition, they said.

 

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