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Cisco Reshapes Top-Level Management

When we talk about vendor leadership, we usually talk about the CEOs: Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, John Chambers. But if you've ever worked closely with a vendor, you know that the heavy lifting -- and often, the visionary thinking -- is often done by the less-familiar names on the top of the org chart. Cisco this week has done some rearranging at that level, and it's worth taking a look to see what it might mean for the router vendor.

Cisco has had three big retirements in the past week: senior vice presidents Prem Jain and Luca Cafiero, and chief development officer Mario Mazzola. (See details on the announcements here.)These three leaders had a profound effect on Cisco's success during more competitive days.

In the next few years, Cisco will be looking for ways to extend its lead in the enterprise while taking on some spirited competition from companies like Juniper in the service provider arena. They have appointed two solid individuals to lead those efforts: Mike Volpi, who helped Cisco to gain dominance in the router market, will now lead the company's service provider strategy. And Jayshree Ullal, head of Cisco's security group and one of the company's shrewdest marketing minds, will now lead the data center and switching groups.

Another key appointment was Cisco's hiring of Robert Pepper, who was an advisor to six FCC chairmen during his 19-year stay at the commission. Pepper knows where all the bodies are buried at the FCC and throughout the regulatory infrastructure, so look for Cisco to lead some new efforts to shape technology policy. This will be of critical value to Cisco as the service provider market evolves around IP. Look for Cisco to be in the know as VoIP and other telecom services policies evolve.

Cisco is bringing in a new generation of management, and it's a good one, especially for current market conditions. Expect the company to come out of its financial shell of the last few years and take the lead in many networking areas as the market re-emerges.