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May 10, 2002
Carl Russo, once the head of Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) optical networking group and long-time occupant of Light Reading's Movers and Shakers list, has resigned from Cisco to pursue personal and outside interests, the company said Friday.
"Carl has been instrumental in Cisco's optical strategy and building the foundation for our continued momentum in this space," says a Cisco spokesperson. "We appreciate his contributions and wish him well as he pursues his personal interests."
Russo says he intends to spend more time with his family and with the three startup companies in which he's invested -- and he'll also be driving in the Toyota Atlantic CART racing series. He says he will not be taking an operating role in any of the startups he works with nor with any other telecom equipment company.
"This is a good time to move on," Russo says.
Russo has spots on the boards of -- and personal investments in -- three privately held communications startups: Calix Networks; MobileSys Inc., a wireless infrastructure services provider; and Kuokoa Networks Inc., a stealthy storage startup located near Cisco on Tasman Drive in San Jose, Calif.
"[Cisco] is a phenomenal place," Russo says. "I think what people are going to find is that the team here is very strong, and over the ensuing weeks it will get stronger still."
"He's a talented guy and they'll miss him," says John Adler, a partner at InterWest Partners and a former co-worker. "He really has a talent for keeping people motivated and I learned a lot from him."
Russo came to Cisco in 1999 when the company acquired Cerent Corp., where he had been CEO, for some $6.9 billion in stock. Once at Cisco, the company's optical transport business grew at a breakneck pace, as more than 600 customers deployed some 30,000 of its ONS15454 next-generation Sonet add/drop multiplexer systems worldwide, according to the company. Though Cisco had a few fits and starts during its optical group's evolution -- such as the decision to discontinue its core optical switch -- Russo (a.k.a. "Mr. Frosty") was always there to candidly explain where the company was headed and to trade barbs with the press (see Cisco Caught Cloning and Carl Russo: Cisco Avoiding the Core).
After the telecom economy spiraled into recession, Cisco reorganized and put Jayshree Ullal in the optical driver's seat while Russo took on more of a strategic and advisory role (see Cisco's Ullal Talks Optical Future and Reorg Rips Through Cisco's Ranks).
Russo's departure comes only a few days after another top telecom equipment executive, Ron Martin, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. (FNC), stepped down (see Ron Martin, Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. and FNC COO Resigns). Martin's duties were absorbed by Akira Tokimasa, FNC's president.
Now that Russo has resigned, several heads in the industry speculate that Cisco has tapped Martin to run its optical division, perhaps using his extensive RBOC contacts to help Cisco win some incumbent carrier customers.
Cisco says it won't comment on the rumor.
— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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