New Cumulus Networks CEO Set To Build 'The Next Great Networking Company'

Josh Leslie

Cumulus Networks new CEO Josh Leslie is ready to lead the open networking software vendor to become the "next great networking company" while also investing more in its channel partners.

"My vision going forward is really quite simple: It's to scale and build on what we've already accomplished, and the company is perfectly positioned to become the next great networking company over the next three to five years," said Leslie in an interview with CRN.

Leslie, a former CRN Channel Chief, is replacing founder and CEO JR Rivers, who will become the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's chief technology officer. Leslie has been leading the company's sales effort since June as vice president of sales, and has executive sales experience from VMware and Coraid.

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The new CEO said Cumulus "invented" the open networking market and has spent the past few years building out its technology solutions. The company has been a disrupter in the software-defined market and was first to market with a Linux operating system for Ethernet switches.

As open networking adoption has grown over the years, Cumulus has formed strategic technology partnerships with the likes of Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and VMware. From 2014 to 2015, the company witnessed a 400 percent spike in growth, according to Leslie.

"We've seen traction across all verticals and all sizes," said Leslie. "We're allowing our folks like HP and Dell to participate in the networking business as a direct competitor to Cisco and Juniper [Networks]. We're allowing their channel and our channel to participate in that business like they never had been able to before."

Chris Becerra, president and CEO of Terrapin Systems, a San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider and Cumulus partner, said open network solutions sales are on the rise and Cumulus' improved licensing model is helping the channel.

"Cumulus' starting to make its licensing model a more subscription-based service is more interesting to customers these days rather than just a license," said Becerra.

He also said Rivers' staying onboard is a good sign of things to come. "It's always a good sign when the founders stick around, because they're passionate and enthusiastic about the technology. It's encouraging," he said.

In an interview with CRN, Rivers said his intent when founding Cumulus was never to become the CEO, but rather the CTO.

"I started the company not to be a CEO, but to work on the technology and product vision. I'm a reasonable CEO. … But I'm a phenomenal technologist. I've kind of got a world-class background," said Rivers. "For where the company is right now, that’s where I'm going to have my highest contribution margin to the dream."

Leslie said with Rivers as the technology leader and himself at the helm, the company is now "perfectly positioned" to scale and create a "much more ambitious" go-to-market strategy.

In regard to the channel, Leslie said he's positioning the company to make large capital investments in its ecosystem of channel partners. Cumulus has hired about 25 new sales and marketing employees focused on the channel since Leslie joined the company nine months ago.

"For us, 99 percent of business goes through the channel and it will remain that way," said Leslie.