Cisco's Cloud 'Founding Father' Heads For The Exit

Nick Earle, seen as a "founding father" of Cisco's cloud strategy, is departing the networking giant later this year after a 12-year stint.

"Well, today is a big day," Earle said in a post on LinkedIn on Tuesday. "I will be leaving Cisco in a few months. It's been a wild ride and after two years running the worldwide Field Cloud, Software and Managed Services team and 10 years in sales management roles, I've decided to step out of the Corporate world and go back to working with startups. No hard plans yet but there's a big world of opportunity out there."

Cisco confirmed that Earle was leaving the company later this year.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: Cisco's Earle Defends Intercloud And Its Future In The Channel]

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Earle's departure comes in the midst of a massive transformation underway at Cisco, as CEO Chuck Robbins restructures the company's 25,000-member engineering team along with Cisco's Intercloud strategy, in which Earle was key.

"Nick basically created the Cisco channel program for cloud," said Kent MacDonald, vice president of business development at Calgary, Alberta-based Long View Systems, a Cisco Gold partner ranked No. 85 on the CRN 2015 Solution Provider 500. "He helped the transformation of services evolve at Cisco and took on the launch of the cloud program. … He was a founding father of the cloud for sure."

Earle, senior vice president of Global Cloud and Managed Services Sales at Cisco, was noticeably missing on stage during Cisco Partner Summit in March; instead, Yvette Kanouff made an appearance.

Earle was on the front lines of Cisco's Intercloud "cloud of clouds" strategy, launched in 2014 with the goal of creating a federation of connected public, private and hybrid clouds. His exit comes as Cisco revamps its Intercloud strategy with its new leader, Zorawar Biri Singh, chief technology officer. Edison Peres, who had headed up the company's Intercloud channel effort, left the company last year.

Partners say Cisco's Intercloud strategy has yet to take hold in the market.

"Intercloud is a mess," said one top executive from a solution provider and Cisco Gold partner who declined to be identified. "It's not something we can really accurately sell. You're still selling a vision and people [have] got to buy into the vision."

Robbins is shaking up the San Jose, Calif.-based company's cloud strategy by restructuring its entire engineering team into four new units: Cloud Services, Networking, Platforms and Security -- along with appointing a new set of leaders who will all report to Robbins.

Earle was well-respected in the channel for creating services opportunities for partners, according to partner sources, holding titles over the years at Cisco that include senior vice president of Worldwide Services Operations and senior vice president of Worldwide Services Sales.

Earle's current responsibilities include the creation of new software- and services-based business models for the company's global channel partners, as well as connecting Cisco's largest service providers and end-user customers to Cisco's cloud portfolio, according to his Cisco profile.

Last year, Earle was voted No. 2 in CRN's list of the 25 Top Disrupters of channel executives in IT.

"There comes a time to have the torch handed down to the next generation or the 'Chuck generation' of leadership," said Long View Systems' MacDonald.