& cplSiteName &

Cisco's Ahuja Quits as Robbins Revamps His Top Team

Mitch Wagner

Kelly Ahuja, who has led Cisco's service provider business for 18 years, has stepped down. The resignation is part of a reorganization that consolidates the core service provider segment with service provider cloud, video, NFV and mobility into a single service provider business led by Yvette Kanouff.

Kanouff is a relative newcomer to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). She joined in 2014 as head of the service provider video business, and is currently SVP and GM of cloud solutions. (See CEO Chat With Yvette Kanouff, Head of Cisco's Cloud Business and Cisco's Kanouff Says the ‘Door is Open' for Women in Comms.)

CEO Chuck Robbins announced the change in an internal company email Monday obtained by Light Reading. The email also describes reorganization of the engineering department, carried out by Robbins in collaboration with Pankaj Patel, Cisco EVP and chief development officer. Patel announced his own resignation from Cisco in January, although this is not due to take effect until the second half of 2016. (See Cisco EVP Development Patel Says Sayonara.)

The engineering reorganization is designed to ensure Cisco maintains leadership in networking "while also investing in other, equally critical, next-generation areas that will define our future," Robbins says.

Engineering is aligning around four key areas: networking and market segments; cloud services and platforms; IoT and applications; and security. Leaders in those four areas will report to Robbins and serve on the executive leadership team (ELT). Patel will lead the engineering team and continue to serve on the ELT during its transition.

The service provider segment will fall under the networking, market segments and solutions organization, along with the core software group, core hardware group, enterprise segment and technology and architecture office.

"I'd like to express my deep gratitude to Kelly Ahuja for his 18 years of leadership in service provider," Robbins says. "Our customers have deep respect for Kelly's expertise, and he has been critical to our success."

In other changes, Zorawar Biri Singh is to continue as CTO of cloud services and platforms and will step up to lead the next-generation data center strategy, working with Insieme leaders and the networking group. The computing systems product group will move to Singh's team, led by senior VP Liz Centoni. (See Mentor Monday: Cisco's Liz Centoni.)

Robbins singled out data, data fabrics and analytics as strategic to cloud-first hybrid IT environments, and said the company is organizing its data and analytics solutions to be led by Singh, with Mala Anand, SVP of the analytics and automation business unit, joning Singh's team. Singh will also head up Cisco's Intercloud business.

Meanwhile, David Goeckeler will continue as head of the security business unit, joining the ELT and reporting directly to Robbins.

In addition, Rowan Trollope is to continue as head of the IoT and collaboration businesses. Trollope will also join the ELT following Cisco's recent $1.4 billion acquisition of IoT cloud provider Jasper Technologies. (See Cisco Preps IoT Platform of Pillars & Products and Cisco Looks to Jasper Acquisition to Transform Enterprises – & Itself.)

In an internal company email, Ahuja describes his decision to step down as "difficult." Here is the message he sent to his Cisco colleagues:


    By now you should have seen the announcements from Chuck and Pankaj regarding my difficult decision to leave Cisco. There comes a time when you reflect back on the amazing experiences you have had and begin to consider what should come next. I've recently hit some personal milestones, such as my 25th wedding anniversary to my wonderful wife, my 18th anniversary here at Cisco and my upcoming 50th birthday. These have caused me to reflect on my past as well as think about the future. So with that, I'm taking steps toward a new path because I have always believed "we do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experiences."

    I could not be more proud of all that we have accomplished together. In partnership with Nick Adamo, Cedrik Neike & Yvette Kanouff and their teams, we have changed the trajectory of the business - the SP business is back! Yvette has a long history in the SP industry and I am confident she will execute on the vision and strategy we created together. In the coming weeks, I will partner closely with Yvette to transition my responsibilities. She and I will determine next steps for engaging our key customers and strategic partners, while retaining focus on what’s also important – our people, this team.

    My career at Cisco has been rewarding and full of both professional and personal achievements. It has been my 'home away from home' filled with family and friends. I plan to take all that I have learned from each of you and use it on my next journey, wherever that may take me. I thank you all for your guidance, support and friendship over the years and wish you all the best of success in the future. I will be watching for great things from Cisco and you in the headlines.

    Finally, let’s not say goodbye but rather “hello" in advance for the next time we meet.

    Thank You!


Ahuja's resignation comes only weeks after he chatted with Light Reading about the monumental communications changes impacting the service provider sector. (See CEO Chat With Kelly Ahuja on Cisco's Service Provider Business.)

The reorganization is the latest in a series of changes at Cisco going back to at least November, 2014, when Patel led an earlier shake-up of the engineering department designed to "bust silos" and end duplication of engineering services between business units. At that time, Cisco had seen year-on-year revenues decline, a trend which it has since reversed, with service provider revenues doing particularly well. "A change like this happens once in a generation -- every ten or 15 years," Patel said at the time. That reorganization lined up the engineering group in a pyramid underneath the enterprise and service provider heads. (See Troubled Cisco Looks to 'Bust Silos' and Service Provider & Cloud Help Cisco Beat Expectations.)

In November, Cisco and Ericsson -- two of the world's biggest networking suppliers -- announced a strategic partnership on 5G, IoT, NFV and cloud R&D. (See Cisco & Ericsson Forge Killer Partnership, 'Ciscosson' Aims for Future-Proof Partnership, What's the Deal Behind 'Ciscosson'? and Cisco Struts Virtual Mobile, 5G & Ericsson Partnership at MWC.)

Want to know more about the cloud? Visit Light Reading's cloud services content channel.

In May last year, longtime CEO John Chambers stepped down, and the company named Robbins as his successor, effective July. (See Cisco's Robbins to Replace Chambers as CEO, Chambers's Legacy: A Resurgent Cisco and Robbins Succeeds Chambers as Cisco Changes CEOs.)

Robbins has since picked his own management team. Soon after he was named successor, company presidents Rob Lloyd and Gary Moore announced they were leaving, along with CTO Padmasree Warrior. Lloyd had been widely viewed as Chambers' heir apparent. (See 2 Cisco Presidents Quit, Cisco CTO Warrior Is Out Too – Report and Ex-Cisco President Lloyd Gets Way Cooler Job.)

Robbins named his new leadership team in June, along with more executive departures, followed by another round of executive appointments in July. (See New Cisco Leadership Favors Diversity and Cisco Brings in New Blood for Tech Leadership.)

Related posts:

— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading.

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Beer
3/22/2016 | 8:40:53 PM
Re: 18 years -- that's impressive!!
i worked at cisco systems for 16 years in engineering.   he may be popular but therein lies the issue with many of the leaders throughout the years at cisco.  being popular does not always translate into being a great and effective leader.  SP BU has been perfoming poorly for many many years.  i really hope that the changes make a positive impact.   time will tell but cisco has been in a constant state of reorg since at leat 2009.   this is a real indication of the problems being at the top and not the bottom rank and file who until robbins took over were the folks held accountable for failures like Ahuja.
User Rank: Blogger
3/22/2016 | 11:54:40 AM
Re: 18 years -- that's impressive!!
Well,  it might be down to the changing of the guard. Chambers once said if Ahuja could figure out how Cisco could make money off selling RAN gear then he'd consider it. I got the impression they worked very closely together.
User Rank: Light Beer
3/22/2016 | 11:41:56 AM
Re: 18 years -- that's impressive!!
It is impressive and probably why it's hard for me to imagine Cisco's SP business without Kelly.
User Rank: Blogger
3/22/2016 | 10:41:40 AM
18 years -- that's impressive!!
That's pretty amazing that anyone could command a job like that for 18 years and still not have celebrated their 50th birthday... and I know from unprompted comments from folks at Cisco that Kelly has been a very popular leader.

What will be interesting to watch during the next few months is whether (or how) Cisco's service provider strategy evolves under Kanouff.

From The Founder
Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink: Are We All Security Service Providers Now?

5|29|17   |   3:40   |   (2) comments

As the security environment gets more threatening, in the wake of WannaCry and other attacks, service providers need to shoulder more responsibility for securing networks, says Tim Kelleher, vice president for IT security services at CenturyLink, in an interview at the Light Reading Big Communications ...
LRTV Documentaries
Verizon's Ed Chan on the New World for Networks

5|29|17   |   19:08   |   (0) comments

In this 2017 Big Communications Event keynote, Ed Chan Senior Vice President, Technology, Strategy and Planning, Corporate Networking and Technology, Verizon, discusses the coming world of sensors and the smart edge, powered by new spectrum and faster fiber uploads. For more BCE coverage and videos,
LRTV Interviews
Zayo's CTO: Respect the Infrastructure!

5|29|17   |   3:04   |   (0) comments

At Light Reading's Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, Zayo's CTO Jack Waters talked about infrastructure and the changing customer landscape for network providers. While everyone else is chatting up applications and services, Waters urges the industry not to downplay the role that ...
LRTV Interviews
AT&T: Creating Dynamic Networks to Meet Business Needs

5|26|17   |   4:24   |   (0) comments

As enterprises need more dynamic networks, service providers need to deliver on-demand, virtual services to meet those needs. AT&T is creating a networking fabric to mix-and-match SDN technologies for enterprise customers, says Roman Pacewicz, AT&T senior vice president for offer management and service integration, in an interview at Light Reading's
LRTV Interviews
EdgeConneX on Industry Headwinds & Tailwinds

5|26|17   |   2:41   |   (0) comments

At Light Reading's Big Communications Event 2017, EdgeConneX CTO Don MacNeil discussed the value of partnerships in the digital world.
LRTV Documentaries
4 Steps Toward a Higher Network IQ

5|26|17   |     |   (0) comments

At the Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, EXFO CEO Philippe Morin explains how sensors and analytics can boost a network's intelligence and enable on-demand customer experiences. Find more BCE 2017 coverage here.
LRTV Interviews
BT's McRae Sheds Light on 4K Strategy

5|25|17   |   4:45   |   (0) comments

At Light Reading's Big Communications Event 2017 in Austin, Texas, BT Group's Chief Network Architect Neil McRae talks about what it took for BT to broadcast live sports in 4K. Catch up with all our BCE coverage at http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
From the Founder
How the NIA Aims to Advance NFV

5|25|17   |   08:07   |   (1) comment

Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
LRTV Custom TV
Better Solutions That Address Growing Scale

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments

For Comcast, the X1 rollout and 17-fold increases in broadband speeds in the past 16 years are among factors driving the need for Energy 2020 solutions that reduce cost and consumption, says Mark Hess.
LRTV Custom TV
Ethernity Network Delivers Instant Offloading of Network Functions With All-Programmable Intelligent NIC

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments

David Levi, CEO of Ethernity Networks, explains that programmability of the hardware makes the company's All-Programmable Intelligent NIC uniquely beneficial for communications service providers that need advanced data appliances with agile support of virtualization. Utilizing the company's patented network processing technology, Ethernity offers data path ...
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Vodafone Gets Obsessed With Cloud-Native

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments

Vodafone's Matt Beal updates us on Project Ocean and explains why simple virtualization isn't enough of a goal for network transformation. Catch up with other BCE 2017 keynotes and news at http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Intel's Take on Network Transformation

5|24|17   |     |   (0) comments

In this BCE 2017 keynote, Lynn Comp discusses Intel's vision for areas such as analytics, automation and service assurance. For more videos and BCE coverage, see http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Cities Clamor for More Clout at FCC
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/23/2017
Sonus & Genband Finally Combine to Form $745M Company
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/23/2017
NB-IoT? Not at Those Prices, Say DT Customers
Iain Morris, News Editor, 5/26/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Animals with Phones
What Brogrammers Look Like to the Rest of Us Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.