Intel Network Leader Nick McKeown Moves To New Role
Nick McKeown was one of the leaders Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger handpicked when he formed the Network and Edge Group as part of a major restructuring in 2021 that brought together previously separate divisions holding Intel’s network, Internet of Things and connectivity products.
The leader of Intel’s Network and Edge Group has stepped aside to take on a new role after taking a leave of absence last year for medical reasons.
Nick McKeown returned to Intel this week with the new title of chief innovation officer for the Network and Edge Group after previously leading the division as general manager, according to an internal Tuesday memo from CEO Pat Gelsinger that was shared by a company spokesperson.
In the memo, Gelsinger said McKeown went on medical leave late last year for an “unexpected surgery” and decided to take on the new role within the Network and Edge Group — abbreviated by Intel as NEX — as McKeown “continues to focus on his health.”
“I am deeply thankful for Nick’s leadership and transformation of the NEX organization over the past two years. […] We applaud his focus on his health and recovery, and we are pleased that he will continue as a key leader within Intel for the NEX team,” he wrote.
Taking McKeown’s place as senior vice president and general manager of NEX is Sachin Katti, who was previously the division’s chief technology officer. As a result, Katti is replacing McKeown on Intel’s executive leadership team and reporting directly to Gelsinger.
Katti, who joined Intel in 2021, had led NEX in an interim capacity in McKeown’s absence, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Gelsinger said Katti pioneered the OpenRAN movement, which Intel views as key to NEX’s growth in the telecom market, and helped found the O-RAN Alliance, which sets specifications for next-generation radio access network technologies. Katti also co-founded two startups: Uhana, which VMware acquired in 2019, and Kumu Networks, which remains a standalone operation.
“Sachin has tremendous depth of experience in defining and driving technologies that capitalize on the cloudification of the network and edge, and the explosion of AI at the edge,” Gelsinger wrote.
“He has been instrumental in formulating the NEX strategy since the org’s creation and leading the team through the past several months,” the CEO added.
McKeown was one of the leaders Gelsinger handpicked when the CEO formed NEX as part of a major restructuring in 2021 that brought together previously separate divisions holding Intel’s network, Internet of Things and connectivity products. The group’s portfolio includes network-optimized Xeon CPUs, intelligent processing units and Ethernet chips, among other things.
“I had the opportunity to put maybe one of the most respected leadership innovators driving our network business in Nick McKeown. He’s my neighbor. I kept cajoling him as we took long walks in the woods together: ‘Quit telling people how to fix the networking industry, come and do it,’ Gelsinger told CRN for a 2021 cover story on Intel’s growing software ambitions.
“If you [had to] pick a more respected leader in networking today, you’ll be hard pressed to find somebody that has more respect, more honors, more recognition than Nick,” he added.
NEX is one of Intel’s smaller divisions that Gelsinger views as a “critical piece” of its overall strategy.
The business unit generated $8.9 billion in revenue last year. While that represented 14.1 percent of Intel’s total sales in 2022, NEX revenue grew 11 percent from the previous year. By contrast, Intel’s biggest cash cows, the Client Computing Group and Datacenter and AI Group, saw their 2022 revenues decline by 23 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
However, NEX hasn’t been immune to the cost pressures and lower demand faced by Intel’s PC and server business units. In the fourth quarter of last year, the business unit’s revenue was down 1 percent year-over-year and its operating income declined 84 percent over the same period due to increased investments in the company’s manufacturing process and product road maps.
The division has also been affected by the multibillion-dollar cost-cutting campaign driven by Intel’s precipitous drop in revenue and profitability last year.
In Intel’s most recent earnings call, Gelsinger said the company will end future investments on the Tofino network switch chip product line that resided within NEX. The Tofino products originated from Intel’s 2019 acquisition of Barefoot Networks, which McKeown co-founded.
“NEX continues to do well and as a core part of our strategic transformation, but we will end future investments on our network switching product line while still fully supporting existing products and customers,” Gelsinger said late last month.