Optical/IP Networks

Procket Gets Cisco Exec

Procket confirmed today that Roland Acra, a former senior VP and chief technology officer of Cisco's service provider division, has joined the startup as its president and CEO.

Light Reading first reported of Acra's job change on Friday (see Has Procket Found a New CEO?).

Acra had been at Cisco since 1991. Prior to his CTO post, he held the title of VP and GM of Cisco's Public Carrier IP Group, where he was responsible for Cisco's 12000 series core routers.

Cisco downplayed the move and says it has no immediate plans to replace Acra.

“While we are disappointed to see Roland leave, we respect his decision to take the next step in his career by assuming the role of CEO at another company," says Mario Mazzola, Cisco's chief development officer, in a statement provided by Cisco. "We wish Roland well in his new endeavors." Cisco says Acra's former responsibilities will be spread out among other executives.

So what made Acra take the leap? Procket founder Tony Li worked with Acra more than a decade ago at Cisco and helped convince him to make the move, Acra says. Acra also had a stint at Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW), as did Procket founder Bill Lynch, who is known for his work on Sun's UltraSPARC microprocessors. Procket board member Stuart Phillips, a general partner at U.S. Venture Partners, once worked with Acra and Li while he was a VP at Cisco in charge of developing Cisco's IOS routing software.

In an interview with Light Reading today, Acra said he took the Procket job for three reasons: He thinks they have a superior technical team; the company has viable, shipping products; and he thinks they're going to sell a lot of systems in the next 12 to 18 months.

So what's so hot about Procket? Acra says the startup's got the gear for today's carrier networks, which are beginning to require more reliable and modular IP equipment; they need gear that can keep moving traffic at very high speeds with new features -- high quality of service upgrades, more pervasive multicasting features, more IPv6 capabilities. In short, capacity increases will demand a modular and efficient upgrade approach.

Acra's also excited about the IP router market in general. He notes that while a lot of Tier 1 and Tier 2 network carriers deferred their spending on IP routers, the traffic in those networks has continued to more or less double on a yearly basis.

Lots of folks have been looking for Procket to announce some bigger customer wins before they'll be convinced the company's on the right track. Procket's customer references to date -- three large Japanese service providers and ISPs and at least three large universities -- give it some credibility (see Procket Wins at University College and Procket Wins Grid Computing Contract), but many will remain skeptical until it announces a marquee incumbent in North America.

Finding big deals leaps to mind as the most pressing part of Acra's new job. It's clear the company needs to quickly put together some biggger partnerships that include deep-pocketed incumbents. The company had been rumored to be in partnership talks with Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) at various points (see Will Nortel Pick Procket? ), but it's never landed the big deal.

Another mystery about Procket is funding. It hasn't announced any new funding since 2002. Acra's hire might signal that Procket is close to a new funding round.

Acra also confirmed that Cisco still holds a small stake in Procket, left over from when Procket was a chip company and not so evidently a direct Cisco competitor in the routing space.

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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