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New Juniper executive feels the love from former channel comrades

Juniper risks plucking a top exec from a value-added reseller to head up U.S. enterprise sales, but partners say it'll mean smoother sailing.

Philip O'Reilly, Juniper Networks' newly appointed senior vice president of U.S. enterprise sales, said his background as a value-added reseller (VAR) executive gives him a leg up in better supporting the Juniper channel and driving sales.

"The channel recognizes the importance of having someone who understands their business," O'Reilly said.

O'Reilly, 53, was previously CEO of Solunet, one of Juniper's most prominent partners. In his new role, he will work with other executives to drive sales through direct, indirect, federal and distribution channels.

The company took a chance in appointing O'Reilly, since other Juniper channel players could have been concerned that he wouldn't treat former competitors fairly. But so far, the reaction has been positive.

"It's refreshing to see that they are going to bring in somebody from the other side of the wall," said Doug Marlin, co-founder of Independent Technology Group (ITG), a Juniper channel partner in Oak Park, Calif.

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ITG came to the Juniper channel as part of Juniper's 2005 acquisition of Peribit Networks. In the beginning, Juniper wasn't wholly partner-friendly, according to Marlin. As with most vendors, channel partners were sometimes brought in at the last minute on deals as paper pushers. But, over the years, things have improved, Marlin said. O'Reilly is bound to make the relationship even better, he said.

Brian O'Hara, president and CEO of Tech Defenders, a Juniper channel partner in Fort Wayne, Ind., said there is an inherent difference when executives truly understand their channel partners.

"I think this is phenomenal. He knows what I do every day for a living," O'Hara said. He went on to say that O'Reilly understands that partners are pulled in many directions, building the relationship with the vendor, finding and supporting customers, and trying to "pay bills and make payroll."

While O'Hara is certain some Juniper channel partners will be concerned about O'Reilly's presence, he said most know him to be "successful" and "smart." He also said O'Reilly wouldn't risk Juniper's overall business -- or the legal trouble that would come along with playing partners wrong.

For his part, O'Reilly said he will "create a dialogue" and "connect the inside and outside." Having been in the Juniper channel and now as a Juniper executive, he is in a unique position to do that.

Beyond that, his job will be to further the "growth and sophistication" of the enterprise group, which is at a turning point. With the release of Ethernet switches this year, Juniper's enterprise networking portfolio is rounded out, and the channel can sell end-to-end equipment and services. So O'Reilly is pushing the company agenda of moving the sales organization away from selling point products and into marketing the full portfolio, including services.

That being said, O'Reilly also noted that while the company will focus on building partners into portfolio providers, the company understands there are "relatively small partners who make a good living from selling products," and they will continue to be fully supported.

For those partners that are selling the whole enterprise package including switching, there is a lot of room for growth, according to O'Reilly. He likened the company to a startup in enterprise switching -- albeit one with strong brand recognition.

"We're out there hunting," he said. And there couldn't be a better time. It was expected that with Ethernet switching Juniper "would be lucky to do a couple of million dollars this year," but instead it brought in $10 million in the second quarter, O'Reilly noted.

Marlin called the Ethernet switches "a game changer" and said the full set of products has helped ITG gain account penetration. From here he'd like to see O'Reilly and the whole team move the sales approach to "knock Cisco off their perch."

O'Reilly didn't directly address his intentions regarding Cisco, but said he believes Juniper will eventually have "commanding market share."

O'Reilly is the latest in a series of newly appointed executives at Juniper. Last week Juniper appointed Microsoft veteran Kevin Johnson as the new CEO, replacing Scott Kriens, who will become chairman of the board. The company also appointed IBM veteran John Morris to executive vice president of worldwide field operations and Luis Avila-Marco to senior vice president of corporate development. Kriens said in an interview with that the company is aiming to scale Juniper up in market presence and size.

Asked if he thought he was part of an overall strategic plan, O'Reilly said he was honored to be in the presence of all of Juniper's executives, and that the company's growth strategy was something he had seen brewing for years.

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