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Optical/IP

Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again

Router guru Tony Li has packed his bags, again leaving (Nasdaq: CSCO) and again joining a startup.

Li has reunited with Procket Networks COO Vito Palermo at Portola, an embryonic startup looking to improve content delivery on the Internet. Li will head up Portola's engineering team and will be responsible for its technology.

A veteran of Cisco and (Nasdaq: JNPR), Li was hired by core-router startup Procket in 2000. Procket didn't fly, however, and Cisco eventually bought the intellectual property and some engineers. Li did some consulting before getting rehired by Cisco in December 2004. (See Procket Processes a Dream Team, Li Finally Quits Procket, and Tony Li Returns to Cisco.)

"Cisco the second time was a lot like Cisco the first time, only both of us were older and wiser," Li tells Light Reading in an email. He won't be building a router at Portola, but it appears he'll be tackling some problems associated with IP routing. Portola aims to provide a service to content providers and content aggregators, allowing them to offer the automatic downloading of content to arbitrary devices including cell phones.

The plan will likely involve Portola buying network capacity from carriers, but the company's delivery mechanism won't shun the wider Internet. "There's an amount of routing and route selection that goes into how you use the system. You still use the Internet, but you can intelligently use the Internet," Palermo says.

The idea is to make life easier for Internet consumers, but without counting on the finicky consumer market for revenues. The service might require some client software, but that software would be bundled into the consumer devices, Palermo expects.

"I originally wanted to build a box that sat in the home to make all this easier. The conclusion that I came to was that there are enough boxes in the home, and they have enough horsepower, in CPUs and software, to make this possible," Palermo says. "This was an opportunity for us to shift our thinking from the development of hardware for the Internet to the development of services."

Palermo hasn't yet sought venture funding for the six-person startup, saying he preferred to fund the company himself, then seek venture partners once enough milestones had been reached. "I would expect to be doing that sometime soon," he says.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Internaut 12/5/2012 | 3:00:39 AM
re: Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again
Does the new company allow Tony to post to lightreading?


He says he's allowed to post now.

flush_meat 12/5/2012 | 3:00:32 AM
re: Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again In my view, Tony is really great. He has the guts to try out different things. Sure, his skill set is pretty well known. People of that sort tend to be bit aggressive and bit harsh/rude at times. It doesn't bother me too much personally. I have seen a bunch of cartoons in my previous startup attempts. The CEO moron didn't have any clues on routers and he is a CEO for a router startup. Instead of working with such idiots, it is certainly better to work with people like Tony.

Good luck Tony.

/FM
flush_meat 12/5/2012 | 3:00:30 AM
re: Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again Tony, when is the website going to be ready? I guess, it is www.portola.com ?
cd 12/5/2012 | 3:00:29 AM
re: Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again With all the icon status given to Tony, my friends in HFR had high expectations for him - only to be disappointed. He was as good as an average HFR tech lead (and half of cisco eng has tech lead title these days). No wonder he left not wanting to be one of the many.
wwatts 12/5/2012 | 3:00:28 AM
re: Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again cd says:"With all the icon status given to Tony, my friends in HFR had high expectations for him - only to be disappointed. He was as good as an average HFR tech lead (and half of cisco eng has tech lead title these days). No wonder he left not wanting to be one of the many."

That probably says more about Cisco's corporate structure than it does about Tony's abilities. Plenty of brilliant people have been made average by large corporate bureaucracies. How many great-leap-forward ground breaking products have come out of Cisco in the past half decade?
new_light 12/5/2012 | 3:00:26 AM
re: Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again "Plenty of brilliant people have been made average by large corporate bureaucracies. How many great-leap-forward ground breaking products have come out of Cisco in the past half decade?"

Well said,
I worked for Cisco during the bubble (5 years) and left when I saw how many idiots were walking the hall ways during my final days there.
Personally, I believe all of those acquisitions dilluted the gene pool...

trzwuip 12/5/2012 | 3:00:24 AM
re: Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again True that.

Not just Tech. leads, Cisco also has hundreds of useless Directors. They got loads of Directors and Sr. Managers with zero reports. A good amount of VPs have so few reports under them that they don't even classify as managers.

It's becoming like working for the Fed. You get decent salary, just know how cruise in the system.
startup_shutup 12/5/2012 | 3:00:23 AM
re: Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again CISCO stock should be punished heavily -- should be around 13 dollars
uguess 12/5/2012 | 3:00:19 AM
re: Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again >>With all the icon status given to Tony, my friends in HFR had
>>high expectations for him - only to be disappointed. He was as
>>good as an average HFR tech lead (and half of cisco eng has
>>tech lead title these days). No wonder he left not wanting to be
>>one of the many.

I really don't believe Cisco has that many people who are technically as good as Tony.

On the other hand, going back to Cisco was a bad decision for Tony at the first place. He should know he would not be able to help the Procketeers at Cisco.

uguess
fgoldstein 12/5/2012 | 3:00:17 AM
re: Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again I've been in some recent email discussions with Tony, and while I don't know him personally, he's one of the clearest thinkers out there. He gets to the heart of the issue and makes straightforward technically-astute statements based on experience and common sense. This is a nice contrast from so many managers, marketeers, promoters, self-promoters, and others who know the buzzwords but don't really understand what goes on behind the curtain.

Big companies tend to be very political. I went through this at Digital/DEC, when their fast growth era ended. The management survivors were often the suckups and glad-handers who told the people above them the falsehoods they wanted to hear. I wonder if Cisco has reached that stage. There are still a lot of good technical people there, but perhaps it's getting harder for the top ones to get past the phonies.
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