Top Cisco Sales Exec Leaves For Wireless Competitor Aerohive

Cisco lost a top sales executive on Monday, Tom Wilburn, who decided to jump ship to wireless competitor Aerohive Networks to become its new senior vice president of worldwide sales.

Wilburn was Cisco's vice president of global enterprise networking sales, responsible for routing, switching and wireless products sales. He had been with the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant for a decade following the $450 million acquisition of Airespace in 2005.

Following Cisco's $1.2 billion acquisition of Meraki in 2012, Wilburn led sales and the integration of Meraki -- defining the go-to-market strategy for the combined Cisco-Meraki portfolio.

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"I look at this whole industry in the transition to cloud-enable networking because the fundamentals are so much better and they're better for the partner community as well. I believe Aerohive is ahead with its architecture," said Wilburn, in an interview with CRN. "I actually think there are things that Aerohive is doing that is better than what Cisco is doing ... I think the cloud is going to be great for partners that want to move away from the low-margin resale business into managed services with reoccurring revenues, and I think what Aerohive can do for partners is going to be fantastic."

Partners of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company are haling the hiring as a strategic move that will launch the wireless vendor forward by improving its sales strategy.

"The appointment of Tom is a signaling of change and addressing a course correction that's needed," said Joe Rittenhouse, president of business development and managing partner at the Crystal Lake, Ill.-based company Converged Technology Professionals, which partners with Aerohive. "I think this will help dramatically ... Having a great product is only half of the battle when it comes to the continued success of an organization in this space. Having a leader with a vast, proven experience that can create a vision of the [go-to-market] sales strategy, I believe, is something we all have a desire for. Bringing in a proven leader like Tom shows that Aerohive is committed to bringing together a world-class sales organization to complement the offering."

Cisco partners said they don't see a big impact on the channel community with Wilson's departure.

"This will leave a gap for Cisco, but I don't see a huge impact [on the channel]," said a top executive solution provider who declined to be identified. "I'm very surprised by this move to Aerohive -- I don't see them very much in our sales campaigns ... Maybe Tom is going to change that."

Rob Wentz, vice president of business development and Alliances at Cumberland Group IT, an Atlanta-based Aerohive and Cisco partner, was surprised to hear the news and believes Wilburn will boost Aerohive immediately.

"His knowledge of Meraki should create an immediate impact, and his Cisco pedigree carries instant credibility," said Wentz.

Wilburn said Aerohive's "next generation" architecture and executive team is poised to take advantage of the "fast growing" mobility market through cloud enablement that will allow partners to build recurring revenue streams.

On April 7, Aerohive launched a new 802.11ac access point along with its new enterprise-class HiveManager NG cloud platform -- technologies that Wilburn pointed to as examples of "next generation" innovations.

"We're a growing company in a growing market. I think partners want to evolve from hardware resellers into businesses that deliver managed services and recurring revenues," said Wilburn. "Right now, you're starting to see some consolidation in the industry and there are partners that have partnered with companies like Aruba [Networks] that candidly are probably starting to reassess that right now, and would like to have an opportunity with a pure-play like with Aerohive."

Wilburn said he has left Cisco on a positive note, and that his 10 years at the company was a great experience.