Optical/IP Networks

Tony Li Leaps to Redback

Fabled programmer Tony Li has left Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) yet again, this time landing with Redback Networks Inc. , now part of the Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) empire. (See IPTV Drives Ericsson to Redback.)

Li didn't immediately return a message left at his Redback extension, or respond to email requests for comment, but Redback company officials have confirmed he's there.

Li's career is an ever-popular topic with Light Reading's audience. He's worked at Cisco three times since 1991. He also helped Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) climb to IPO status, and built up Procket as a would-be competitor in core routing. (See Procket Processes a Dream Team, Li Finally Quits Procket, Tony Li Returns to Cisco, Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again, Li Takes Tropos Route, and Tony Li Rejoins Cisco (Again).)

Table 1: Tony Li Timeline
When Where/What
January 1991 Joins Cisco, helps develop the GRS 12000; reportedly storms out, nailing his resignation letter to a door
1996 Joins Juniper, works on the flagship M40 router
1999 Joins Procket, leaving Juniper just before its IPO
March 2004 Quits Procket, dabbles in consulting
December 2004 Rejoins Cisco
September 2005 Leaves Cisco for Portola Networks, rejoining former Procket exec Vito Palermo
April 2006 Departs Portola to join Tropos Networks
2007 Third stint at Cisco
Early 2008 Joins Redback (owned by Ericsson)

Li's move to Redback apparently happened months ago. His name is on an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) draft dated March 2008, along with one R. Atkinson of Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR).

What might Li be working on these days? Well, that draft covers cryptographic authorization for the Intermediate System to Intermediate System (IS-IS) routing protocol.

The pattern so far has been for Li to return to startup life occasionally, shedding himself of "corporate overhead" -- a term he used in a 2004 interview with Light Reading. (See Tony Li.)

Redback, though, could be subject to a certain level of Ericsson overhead, though it appears to have retained some autonomy and appears to be taking the lead in Ericsson's IP efforts -- much as the former TiMetra team has done at what is now Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s IP division.

With Ericsson's muscle behind it, Redback is pushing hard to challenge Cisco, Juniper, and especially AlcaLu at the network edge. (See Redback Targets 30% Market Share and Redback Goes on the Offensive.)

Last year, Redback pumped up its routing platform considerably with the SmartEdge 1200 introduction, and just this week it offered up the SM 480 for carrier Ethernet needs. That Redback might have more routing tricks up its sleeve wouldn't come as a surprise, especially with Li on board. (See Redback Beefs Up Its Router, Redback Targets AlcaLu – Again!, and Redback Beats AlcaLu to French Deal.)

Li's latest departure from Cisco is part of an executive exit trend at the IP giant. Chief development officer Charles Giancarlo is now running Avaya Inc. as part of his duties at private equity firm Silver Lake Partners , while executive vice president Jayshree Ullal quit recently, hinting she'd resurface after the summer. (See Giancarlo Steps in at Avaya, Giancarlo Quits Cisco, Paddles to Silver Lake, and Ullal Calls It Quits at Cisco.)

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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