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Ullal Calls It Quits at Cisco

Jayshree Ullal, a fixture in the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) executive ranks, is leaving the company after a 15-year tenure.

Ullal, senior vice president of the data center, switching, and security technology group, broke the news to the world Friday with a blog entry on Cisco's site (See Ullal Leaving Cisco.)

She wrote that she's got no specific plans but expects to pick her next job after a summer break. Light Reading hadn't managed to locate her for comment by press time.

Her replacement is John McCool, who will also take Ullal's spot as one of nine executives comprising the Cisco Development Organization, a kind of hive-mind, second-in-command to CEO John Chambers.

"I'm sure whatever she's done, it was well plotted out. I don't think there was any bad blood," says Lippis Enterprises analyst Nick Lippis, who's known Ullal since the 80s. "Cisco will be fine. No doubt it's their loss."

Lippis is convinced Ullal wasn't forced out. "She was so plugged in, and she was driving two of the largest initiatives at Cisco -- data center and network security," he says. "She probably felt it was the right time for her to go."

Ullal joined Cisco with the acquisition of Crescendo Communications in 1993. That buy, Cisco's first, turned out to be fruitful. It gave the company Randy Pond, who's still in charge of Cisco's operations. And three Crescendo veterans -- Luca Cafiero, Prem Jain, and Mario Mazzola -- have twice left Cisco and gotten acquired back in, with startups Andiamo Systems and Nuova Systems. (See Crescendo Corps Soars at Cisco, Cisco Buys Andiamo Finally, Andiamo Crew Reunites With Cisco, and Cisco Wraps Up Nuova.)

Ullal stuck with Cisco and eventually took over the enterprise business, taking LAN switching -- which hadn't existed before Crescendo's arrival -- to a $7 billion business by 2000.

Cisco was hoping for similar success in optical networking. Ullal took over that division in 2001, part of a major reorganization that put Mazzola in charge of what were then 11 technology groups. (See Reorg Rips Through Cisco's Ranks.)

In an awkward twist, the restructuring turned former optical head Carl Russo into one of Ullal's reporters. Within a year, Russo left Cisco, first to race cars, then to run Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX) (See Cisco's Russo Resigns and Russo Returns.)

If optical was eventually a dud, it wasn't entirely Ullal's fault. Signs of a market collapse were emerging by 2001, and within a few years, the industry followed. (See, uh... just about every Light Reading story from 2002 to 2005.)

In 2005, Ullal got moved into her current assignment, taking on some higher-profile work. She reported to Charles Giancarlo, who was named chief development officer at the same time. (See Cisco Names Data Chief.)

The past three years have seen Cisco diversify its data center offerings, battling the likes of HP and IBM. The role got her recognized on last year's Top Women in Storage list on Byte and Switch.

Ullal has also helped lead Cisco's charge into virtualization, culminating in the January announcement of the Nexus 7000 data center switch -- a product that, in PR terms anyway, gives Ullal a high note to go out on. (See Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future.)

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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