Is Nuova Needling Cisco's Brass?
Some sources think Cisco's upcoming acquisition of Nuova Systems helped Ullal -- a senior vice president and part of the nine-person Cisco Development Organization that's second-in-command to CEO John Chambers -- decide to walk out last week. (See Ullal Calls It Quits at Cisco.)
Nuova's four founding executives -- Mario Mazzola, Luca Cafiero, Prem Jain, and Soni Jiandani -- hailed from Andiamo, the storage networking spin-in that Cisco funded and acquired a few years ago. And long before that, they'd been acquired into Cisco normally, via its purchase of Crescendo. (See Cisco/Andiamo Vets Try Something 'Nuova', Andiamo Crew Reunites With Cisco, and Cisco Wraps Up Nuova.)
Ullal hailed from Crescendo, too. But she and other top execs didn't get startup-like payouts for staying inside Cisco, and they certainly didn't get to do it twice.
"I'd heard she was pissed off about the whole Nuova thing," as one source, requesting anonymity, put it.
Another theory is that a Nuova founder's new job at Cisco was going to clash with Ullal's, possibly helping to trigger her idea to leave.
Cisco named John McCool as Ullal's replacement, but it's not yet said what the Nuova team will be doing, since the acquisition isn't completed.
"When integrated into Cisco, they [Nuova] will be an independent business unit, and the founders are expected to be in leadership roles," a spokeswoman tells Light Reading via email.
Other sources don't think Nuova factored into Ullal's decision at all. Some believe her departure, and those of other executives like former chief development officer Charles Giancarlo, had more to do with Cisco's long-term future. (See Giancarlo Quits Cisco, Paddles to Silver Lake.)
Two of Chambers's main themes lately have been the use of Web 2.0-like tools to complete corporate projects and the shift of Cisco more into the realm of IT services.
The latter is happening partly because Cisco worries about low-cost router competition, as Chambers has discussed openly for years. (See Cisco Rolls Out Roadmaps.) But it's also one of the few ways Cisco can keep fueling the 12 to 17 percent growth per year that Chambers keeps talking about.
"Cisco has a commanding market share in all the significant segments which generate revenue for it, and none of those segments show organic growth," says Tom Nolle, principal analyst of CIMI Corp. "What that adds up to is what I'm going to call the WebEx direction."
Cisco acquired WebEx Communications last year and is selling it not as a plain enterprise tool, but as a service, Nolle points out. (See Will WebEx Change Cisco?) Moves like that don't bode well for a team that's accustomed to selling boxes.
"The skill set that's needed is quite different," says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with Yankee Group Research Inc.
"Cisco is going to be a different kind of company because Wall Street mandates it become a different kind of company," Nolle says. Some executives might have seen this coming or, Nolle theorizes, Chambers might have dropped them hints that Cisco's new direction is going to lean on executives from a different industry sector.
This isn't necessarily bad. If Cisco gets the transition right, the moves will seem ingenious. "If they get it wrong, they're looking at more management changes, starting with John Chambers," Nolle says.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading