Partners Sound Off On Cisco's SDN Superstars' Lesser Roles As Robbins Executive Shake-Up Continues

The ongoing executive shake-up inside Cisco Systems under the leadership of CEO Chuck Robbins is continuing as the networking giant reshuffles some of its top executives, including security leader David Goeckeler and the group responsible for Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

Cisco veterans and top engineers Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain and Luca Cafiero, who led the development of several of Cisco "spin-ins" -- including Insieme in 2012 -- will be transitioning into advisory roles. Inseime was the basis for Cisco's software-defined networking strategy ACI, which now has a $2.2 billion run rate.

"Those guys have been hugely successful for Cisco over the past 10, twenty years," said one top executive from a Cisco Gold partner, who declined to be named. "It is sort of a loss, because they're taking smaller roles as you kind of see Chuck moving away from those startup spin-ins … but Chuck is doing his thing right now as the captain, which is great -- he's truly shaking up the structure of the whole company."

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The trio, along with Soni Jiandani -- senior vice president of Cisco's Inseime Business Unit, have been instrumental in managing the Inseime unit responsible for ACI and Cisco's Nexus 9000 series of switches.

Another significant executive change, unveiled in an internal memo last week, is that Goeckeler -- senior vice president and general manager for Cisco's Security Business Group -- will now lead the company's Networking & Security Business Group, CRN has confirmed. Goeckeler, a 16-year Cisco veteran who has run its security group since 2012, was a key driver in Cisco's security surge over the past few quarters, including a 17 percent security spike year over year during its most recent quarter.

"David's promotion makes sense, since he's done a great job leveraging the investment Cisco has made in security," said Phil Mogavero, vice president of Advanced Technology Group network solutions and regional chief technology officer at El Segundo, Calif.-based PCM. "You're beginning to also understand that from Cisco's point of view, networking and security really work together as we go forward, not necessarily separate."

Mogavero says Cisco has a competitive advantage by being able to tightly integrate security and network components together. He said companies are having a difficult time balancing networking and security, while Cisco is offering both under one umbrella.

"Networking and security being separate from each other is not a conducive approach to protect customers going forward," said Mogavero. "You have to bake them together where possible and put it under the same leadership."

Goeckeler's security speech during Cisco Partner Summit in March was a hit with partners, as he explained how Cisco was leading the security market.

CRN reported last week that Cisco's global service business leader, Nick Adamo, is leaving after a 21-year stint with the networking giant. Adamo, senior vice president of Cisco's global service provider practice, leads global sales, service delivery and development for the business and is responsible for $12.4 billion in annual sales and 3,000 employees.

Partners say the executive restructuring underway since Robbins was announced as the new CEO last May has been breaking new ground.

"It's a completely new company starting at the top -- it really is groundbreaking," said the executive Cisco Gold partner. "I can't list all the executives, these really top guys, who are gone now or like the [three Inseime executives] are moving into advisory roles now -- it's dozens."

Mogavero said Robbins is reacting to where the market is going instead of trying to stay in specific silos.

"As we see it in our own organizations, other organization and in vendors, you need to keep changing and put the right people in the right spots on the bus and make sure the bus is heading in the right direction to be successful," said Mogavero. "Certainly it creates hiccups here and there, but we understand the need for it to reach success."