Cisco Small Business Chief To Exit

series of major executive departures from Cisco this year

Ian Pennell, senior vice president of Cisco's Small Business Technology Group and a 17-year veteran of Cisco, will retire. Cisco confirmed the move to CRN Wednesday, and also confirmed that the product portfolio under Pennell's leadership will move under two different groups and executive leaders.

Specifically, the networking products in Cisco's small business portfolio will become part of its Unified Access Business Unit under Rob Soderbery, senior vice president, and the voice products in the portfolio will become part of the Collaboration and Communications Business under Barry O'Sullivan, senior vice president.

"These changes will allow us to remain focused on the small business market, while creating tighter alignment across our overall product portfolio," said a Cisco spokesman in an e-mail to CRN Wednesday.

In his role as head of Cisco's Small Business Technology Group, Pennell oversees product roadmap and go-to-market strategy for Cisco's small business products -- a key growth area for Cisco and one that's also proven elusive to the networking titan in previous years. As of early 2011, however, Cisco was busy adding new partners to what had by then become a $1.5 billion business, roughly 4 percent of Cisco's overall revenue pie.

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Pennell, who is also co-lead for Cisco's Small Business Council, told CRN earlier this year that designing and marketing products for small businesses is particularly tricky because those customers crave sophistication, but also adaptability, ease-of-use and a favorable price point.

"This space needs to be able to put things together and have it all be relatively easy to understand," Pennell said. "It's partly about size. You do get some commonality in the sub-20 vs. a 50- or 100-size company, but it's really more about what they're trying to do and how robust do they need to be. There's an awful lot of diversification."

Before assuming his current role, Pennell was senior vice president and general manager for Cisco's Access Routing Technology Group (ARTG), and he held executive positions overseeing several of Cisco's key lines in router-based services and access routing, among others. He first joined Cisco in 1995 as a director of product marketing in the ARTG, following several years at Attachmate.

Pennell's pending departure is one of more than 30 major executive exits from Cisco this year. The company has spent much of calendar 2011 in restructuring mode as it looks to slim down and remove $1 billion in operating expenses by the end of its fiscal 2012.