Cisco's Nuti Talks Up Move to Symbol

There's been lots of talk since Symbol Technologies Inc. announced yesterday that Bill Nuti, Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) senior vice president of worldwide service provider operations, will become its president and chief operating officer (see Symbol Under New Management).

One of the theories as to why Nuti would jump ship was that any Cisco executive hoping to succeed Cisco CEO John Chambers is in for a wait of several long years. Another theory: Nuti, a New Yorker, would rather work on the East Coast, and Symbol is based in Holtsville, N.Y.

Nuti took an opportunity to weigh in himself during a Thursday morning interview with Light Reading.

"I see Symbol as a company with not only a proven track record, but one with great potential for growth," he says. "I compare Symbol with Cisco in the early days -- very aggressive, very hungry, and very innovative."

Nuti also alluded to the fact that as a native Long Islander, he has East Coast roots. "I love the community. I love the East Coast. And I'm looking forward to working with Rich [Bravman, Symbol's CEO] and Jerry [Swartz, Symbol's founder] to create a great company."

Nuti hasn't officially left Cisco yet. He's working there until the end of the week and begins his new job on August 1. It's an interesting move, because Nuti was at Cisco for a decade and was considered by some to be one of Cisco's top executives.

Nuti held a variety of positions in the company as Cisco chased the service provider market. He was president of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) Operations until February 2001. During the Asian economic crisis of the mid to late 90s, Nuti managed Cisco's business in Singapore and spent a year working in Beijing.

Nuti then moved on to Europe where he oversaw Cisco's investment of more than $5 billion in strategic alliances, joint ventures, and acquisitions throughout EMEA.

When he returned to the U.S., he was charged with helping rebuild Cisco's service provider strategy and he became general manager for Cisco's U.S. business. "The last year and a half may have been some of the best experience I've gotten in terms of managing during a downturn," Nuti says.

"I can't say the last year and a half to two years were a lot of fun as a senior executive in the business world, particularly in networking and even more so in telecommunications, but the skill set you build in that time frame -- the mental toughness and the skin-thickness -- grows quite substantially."

Though he lived in New York, Nuti was thought by some to be heir-apparent to San Jose-based Chambers. "He probably had the best chance of replacing Chambers in a few years," says one former Cisco executive, who requested anonymity.

Nuti's departure once again raises questions about whether there are executives being groomed to follow Chambers, and if so, whether anybody has the patience to stick around for his job if and when he relinquishes it.

Don Listwin, now CEO of Openwave Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: OPWV), was the last Cisco executive thought to be Chambers' eventual successor. Listwin left Cisco in 2000, saying that one of his career goals was to be a CEO and it wasn't going to happen fast enough for him at Cisco.

Several top Cisco service provider executives have left in the past couple of years, including Carl Russo, Kevin Kennedy, and Kevin DeNuccio. Light Reading reported earlier this year that Cisco has hired former Fujitsu executive Ron Martin to absorb some of those duties, but the company hasn't announced Martin's hiring.

Nuti says he was "happy to play for it all" and "honored" to be in that heir-apparent role. "I really didn't focus on that," he quickly adds. "I just went out everyday and did my job."

When asked to rate Cisco's service provider business now, as he's leaving it, Nuti gives it high marks. "Their resolve and sustainability in the service provider market has been incredible. It's all about execution for them now and continuing to keep the momentum going."

He notes that Cisco knows its competitors in the telecom equipment market are substantially weaker than they once were, leaving Cisco an opening to become "a number one strategic partner of service providers" if the company continues to make the right investments.

"They've got another tough year ahead of them. If they can continue to finance their way through this strategy… you can only surmise that Cisco may come out of this downturn as the next Lucent Technologies Inc. or Nortel Networks Corp., in terms of being the primary provider of service provider equipment.

"Their key competitor, by the way, is not going to end up being Lucent or Nortel, in my opinion. It's going to be Juniper Networks Inc."

One former Cisco executive says Nuti sometimes seemed disheartened that Cisco had yielded relatively few products compared to the number of acquisitions it had made and the dollars it spent in the service provider space. "That's one [issue] I'll avoid," Nuti says in response. "It's water under the bridge."

Some say Nuti's departure is remarkable in another way: It appears to be on Nuti's terms and timetable. "[Nuti] is one of the few who has left Cisco in the last few years," says Terry Eger, a former Cisco executive. "The rest all seem to get a [severance] package to go on a leave of absence and they just fade away." (See Cisco's DeNuccio Talks With Redback and Procket Recruits Cisco Connection.)

"We will miss Bill and we wish him well," says a Cisco spokesperson. Nuti's replacement has not yet been named.

From a technology point of view, many of Nuti's skills in selling networking gear to enterprises and service provider gear to carriers will translate directly to Symbol. Symbol makes portable data terminals and bar code scanners, as well as the gear and software required to tie those scanners into wireless local-area networks.

"[Symbol's] collection of assets is second to none and, I think, somewhat undervalued," Nuti says. "If you look at their product and technology roadmap… and really understand this company's knowledge of the supply chain… you have a company that I feel can drive significant growth in the future."

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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literight 12/4/2012 | 10:04:35 PM
re: Cisco's Nuti Talks Up Move to Symbol So where is the momentum for cisco- no one's buying optical, they're getting hammered in IP technology. Attempts to turn Enterprise profits into SP funding is an old story. And slesmen, even SVPs are getting tired not reaching quotas.

Did he bail out, more to follow?
maryhadalambda 12/4/2012 | 10:04:35 PM
re: Cisco's Nuti Talks Up Move to Symbol At last Cisco analyst meeting, Nuti was up on stage with Rick Justice vowing to turn the Cisco's SP business around. Looks like he gave up on that mission to settle for a smaller, old company that sells inventory scanners. But with only 211 million shares of Symbol outstanding vs. Cisco's 7.1 billion float, I think there's more upside to Symbol stock.
gumbydammit 12/4/2012 | 10:04:31 PM
re: Cisco's Nuti Talks Up Move to Symbol
1/ Maybe its not beautiful for Cisco in the SP space. Maybe YOU could enlighten us who IS doing so WELL in the SP space? hmmmm? bueller?

2/ Ain't nothing wrong with going with your strengths, which are enterprise and federal right now. Its not *old hat*, its *old (and NEW) revenue streams*. Got something against revenue streams?

3/ My guess is Nuti just wanted to get off the hard-fought SP merry-go-round. Nothing left to prove, or earn(!). Why not ENJOY family (i.e. no travel) life for a change. :) I know I would.

cabledog 12/4/2012 | 10:04:30 PM
re: Cisco's Nuti Talks Up Move to Symbol Thank you light reading for prompting us to ignore the author. Literight is obviously not clued in to the present. Although Nuti will be a loss, Cisco will keep it's momentum as it has done through this entire economic downturn. Has there been any other company to do that? Nope, but folks like Mr. Literight will continue to use anything to knock them down because it's not going to happen from the competitors. My Network is staying Cisco.
hoffmane 12/4/2012 | 10:04:30 PM
re: Cisco's Nuti Talks Up Move to Symbol He was probably given a little push, Chambers would not have wanted to fire him, and the SP group did nothing.

Anyone who makes a virtue of staying with Cisco is either not using their network very much or are justifying their earlier choices.
lightwatcher 12/4/2012 | 10:04:29 PM
re: Cisco's Nuti Talks Up Move to Symbol It's strange that after all the noise Chambers made at Supercomm 2002 about the importance of the Service Provider market, he would let one of his top guys in this area go.

Does anyone think that Cisco really cares about the SP market ?
marasim 12/4/2012 | 10:04:28 PM
re: Cisco's Nuti Talks Up Move to Symbol very easy to say that Cisco is relooking at it's SP strategy....actually you will look ignorant about the happenings in the telecom indust. Suggest read more people...see the big deals happeneing (whtever little) in Asia, Europe and USA and all are Cisco.

Can you think about telecom companies that are likely to survive in the near future - only one name comes to my mind - Cisco System....where are lucent and nortel today????? ask yourself (they WERE great companies but now????) look at juniper...great stuff with unisphere, but we have to wait and see..whatever said and done...we have to accept Cisco is way ahaed.

Sure Nuti was an admired leader in Cisco, but i guess he was not running the show alone...Chambers, Jayshree, Volpi etc with such a strong leadership Cisco is here to stay, weather we like it or not...so it is better to accept gracefully rather than pulling it down with words.

digerato 12/4/2012 | 10:04:28 PM
re: Cisco's Nuti Talks Up Move to Symbol Literite:

Come on -- Cisco getting hammered in IP technology? Huh? They have 80+% market share in routers and have been taking back share from Juniper for the last few quarters. Even if we give Juniper the benefit of the doubt and say all that growth came from enterprise, they still own the market. Even Tam Del'Oro, who has never loved Cisco, agrees.

As to "no-one's buying optical", the last and only optical game in town worth anything is metro next gen SONET. The Cerent box (now Cisco 15454 and bretheren) has done very well in that space.

Add all this to the strongest balance sheet in the industry by a very long way ($18bn in cash equivalents) and it's foolish to write Cisco off.

Apologies for stating the obvious, but life sucks in telecom right now. If you can "get a life" back East with your family at a company in a market segment that isn't being bloodied every day, why not do it?



(And no, I don't work for Cisco)
BobbyMax 12/4/2012 | 10:04:27 PM
re: Cisco's Nuti Talks Up Move to Symbol Mr. Nuti made the following remarks which is simply outlandish and clearly shows his lack of knowledge of the industry and its functioning.

Nuti said:

"They've [Cisco] got another tough year ahead of them. If they can continue to finance their way through this strategyGǪ you can only surmise that Cisco may come out of this downturn as the next Lucent Technologies Inc. or Nortel Networks Corp., in terms of being the primary provider of service provider equipment"

Cisco has almost no real R&D activities. It has never produced any significant products for any industry. Its work force is primarily composed of contractors and personnel from the third world countries. Its engineers have never produced any original specifications except for some minor stuff for IETF.

Cisco has less than half a dozen engineers with a Ph.D. level education. Lucent has had over 8 Nobel prize winners. In addition, about one third of Lucent's engineer have a Ph.D. level education from our very prestigous schools. "Dr." Nuti ought to know that there is no comparison between Cisco and Lucent. There is not a single discipline of engineering that the Lucent's engineer can not handle. Any products that Cisco has can be replicated by Lucent in almost no time.

Cisco has no experience in the field of telecommunications, yet it has been erroneously projecting itself as a telecom company.

A maasive reorganization has taken place. Four former employees of Crescendo Communications (FDDI Card Manufacturer), now a part of Cisco, have been promoted to senior VP positions. If a fair and honest selection was done by Mr. John Chambers, this would have not occured.This clearly shows corrupt activity that would erode public confidence. A lot of customers of Cisco would not appreciate this.

Cisco has also been granting huge stock options to its employees and management without disclosing its full impact to shareholders. Every year the shareholders have been losing at least 9% per share.
gea 12/4/2012 | 10:04:24 PM
re: Cisco's Nuti Talks Up Move to Symbol Bobby Max has been smokin' crack early this morning:

"Cisco has less than half a dozen engineers with a Ph.D. level education."

As usual, "Bobby" (aka Harvey Mudd), you completely and toally pulled those numbers out of your ass. Why do you even bother posting such silly junk? Knowing (as you must) that your numbers are complete crap, what actually causes your body to move your fingers to the keyboard? What's your motivation here?
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