New Blood Pumps Juniper

Three executives leave while a Cisco exec is named to head the applications group.
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Juniper

(JNPR) - Get Report

shook up senior management Tuesday and brought in a hard charger from rival

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

.

Three business executives, including the company's worldwide sales chief, Jim Dolce, infrastructure head Carol Mills and applications leader Jef Graham, have stepped down. Four managers have been promoted to replace them, says Juniper.

While the moves were seen by analysts as an expected transition, the hiring of nine-year Cisco veteran Paulette Altmaier to head Juniper's Applications Products Group was particularly notable, given that this division is a key part of the company's network security business.

Juniper shares have dropped 23% from their high of $27.12 in June as the company struggles to find growth beyond its hugely successful core router market. Big routers are the traffic management devices at junction points in the Internet. On word of the management shuffle, Juniper shares jumped 85 cents, or 4%, to $21.67.

And though the company has exceeded Wall Street's growth and profit expectations for three years running, worriers wonder when that streak will end. On Monday, Prudential Securities downgraded the Sunnyvale, Calif., tech shop to neutral on concerns that telcos are shifting spending away from core routers to edge routers.

Outfits like Cisco and more recently strong gains by

Alcatel

(ALA)

have made the so-called edge market far more competitive. With its cheaper more flexible designs, Alcatel has become a rising star in edge gear. In the third quarter, Alcatel captured 7% of the market, up from 2% it controlled a year ago.

Meanwhile, Juniper's entry into network security with the $3.3 billion acquisition of Netscreen in 2004, has yet to live up to expectations.

In October, Juniper declined to give third quarter dollar figures to help analysts gauge the performance, but the company said its security sales were double the rate of some of its competitors.

Investors wonder if Juniper has enough to offer outside its core routing expertise when the telco demand starts to slow down. And, judging by the stock reaction, the new blood is seen as an encouraging sign.