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The Empire Strikes Back: Cisco Brings On Board Fabric Father, David Yen

Wed, 05/11/2011 - 11:13am
Yankee Group

The struggles at Cisco have been well documented over the past year or so. Much of the reason for this is large number of executive departures that have left Cisco over the past few years. Here is a list of the more notable ones in recent memory:

  • Tony Bates, SVP of Cisco’s enterprise, commercial and small business division is now CEO of Skype
  • Debra Chrapaty, SVP of Collaboration became Zynga’s CIO
  • Dan Scheinman head of Cisco’s media business resigned when Cisco shut down Flip
  • Nawaf Bitar, VP of Security is now a GM and SVP of Juniper Networks Emerging Technologies division
  • Jayshree Ulall, SVP of the Data Center, Switching and Services business unit is now CEO of Arista Networks
  • Doug Gourlay, VP of Data Center Marketing joined Jayshree at Arista to become VP of Marketing at Arista
  • Jeff Hirschman, engineering manager of Cisco’s Gigabit Switching Business Unit also joined Arista to be VP of Engineering
  • Ben Gibson, head of Cisco’s enterprise mobility solutions marketing business is Chief Marketing Officer of Aruba Networks
  • Dayle Hall and Chris Kozup, both marketing managers that worked for Ben at Cisco joined Aruba shortly after
  • Joe Burton, CIO of Cisco’s Unified Communications group is now Polycom’s CTO and GM of Enterprise and service provider

But the churn in executive talent started when Mike Volip and Charlie Giancarlo left several years ago. Those departures coincided with Cisco’s implementation of its “boards and councils” management style. The boards and councils approach isn’t the sole reason Cisco has had people leave. The lack of growth in Cisco’s stock price has been an issue for some as well. Looking at the list of places where the execs have landed, other than Bitar, it’s all start-ups or high growth companies.

Yesterday Cisco announced a new executive hire: David Yen. David is consider by some to be the father of network fabrics–this decade’s Bob Metcalf if you will, although there’s no “Yen’s Law”… yet. David was most recently at Juniper Networks where he was EVP and GM of Juniper’s Network Fabric and Switching Business Group where he lead the research and development of the product known as QFabric, formerly known by the code name “Stratus.”

Realistically, fabrics have been around a long time, used widely in storage networking but have only recently become a term associated with Ethernet networks. Now many vendors have released fabrics but Juniper, led by David Yen was the first company to really evangelize the concept and they did a great job doing so.

David Yen is brilliant and a great hire for Cisco as they finally steal a big name executive from one of their competitors. Yen will be the new lead to Cisco’s Server Access and Virtualization Group (SAVG), which expected to reap big rewards for Cisco over the next few years. Will this be the thing that helps Cisco get its mojo back? Of course not, but it is a step in the right direction.

One of the more interesting side stories from this hire is what happens to former crew of Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero and Mario Mazzola. The three of them were part of the group that left Cisco, started Nuova and then were brought back in when Cisco purchased the start up. The same crew did the same type of “spin out – spin in” a few years earlier when Cisco acquired Andiamo.

Silicon Valley rumors seem to be that this group will soon depart Cisco to create a third spin out that many will look to be brought back into Cisco through an acquisition.

So, kudos to Cisco for snagging some top talent and adding to the executives that now report directly to CEO John Chambers. I’m sure Yen’s outside perspective will be welcome as Cisco continues its reloading.

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