Optical/IP Networks

Fujitsu's Martin Joins Cisco

PLANO, Texas -- Ron Martin, former COO of Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. (FNC), has been hired by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) to help revive its optical networking business, Light Reading has learned.

Martin, who resigned from FNC last week, could not be reached for comment (see FNC COO Resigns). "He left on his own accord to pursue other opportunities," says John Stewart, a spokesman for FNC. "The move was totally voluntary."

Sources here say that Cisco went after Martin, who has extensive contacts with RBOCs, with the intent of having him expand the position vacated by Carl Russo last week (see Cisco's Russo Resigns). During Martin's tenure with FNC, he helped the company secure a market leadership position in the Sonet transport equipment space.

Cisco has needed someone of Martin's stature since its service provider business unit melted down in late 2000 and early 2001. That led to the departure of its top telecom equipment executives, Don Listwin and Kevin Kennedy, who are now with Openwave Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: OPWV). Another pocket of former Cisco service provider executives fled to Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK) in 2001. (See Listwin Leaves Cisco, Kennedy Lands at Openwave, DeNuccio Joins Redback, and Listwin Joins Redback Board.)

Jayshree Ullal, who now leads Cisco's optical networking group, is seen by industry observers as an executive who specializes in attacking new markets (see Cisco's Ullal Talks Optical Future). However, Ullal lacks the decades-long personal relationships that Martin has in the carrier universe.

Even John Chambers, Cisco's CEO, has noted when talking to analysts that Cisco is particularly weak when talking to service provider operations executives. Chambers himself is a charmer to CEOs and world leaders, but sources say Cisco needs some bench-strength when it comes to wooing operations folks -- the people who really decide what goes in and what stays out of a carrier network.

During Cisco's last earnings conference call, Chambers himself noted that one of Cisco's concerns was its "major decrease in optical business during this quarter." (See Cisco Tops Expectations.)

"I think [Chambers] is trying to beef up the executive staff, particularly on the carrier side," says Sam Wilson, an analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. "However, given some of the past hires, I think he's being slow and methodical." What remains to be seen is how much difference Martin can make when trying to get Cisco into key RBOC accounts. It's also worth noting that Martin may not be the only executive Cisco brings in to shore up its service provider business, according to a venture capital source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"Cisco has little penetration to show in the RBOCs," says Kris Shankar, VP of marketing and business development for Metro-Optix Inc. "In Ron Martin they are looking for the secret sauce that built Fujitsu into the Sonet powerhouse of the 1990s.

"Short term, [the new hire] appears to be a shift in Cisco's favor. Long term, it is questionable if executive relationships can transcend the perennial resistance from carrier operations."

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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