Top 22 Cisco Technology Innovators Who Have Headed For The Door

22 Cisco Innovators Who Have Headed For The Door

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins has been shaking up the networking giant's technology innovation team. But the restructuring of Cisco's 25,000-member engineering team has led to numerous departures, including the recent exit of Chief Technology Officer Zorawar Biri Singh.

Singh is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of top Cisco innovators and engineers who have left the San Jose, Calif.-based company in recent years. Many have since started their own networking companies that now compete head-to-head with Cisco, including SD-WAN startup CloudGenix and networking startup Avi Networks.

CRN ranks the top 22 Cisco technologists who left within the past four years that had the biggest channel impact in terms of building innovative solutions for partners to sell.

22. Dhruv Jain

Last Cisco Position: Corporate Strategy, Business Development Manager

Dhruv Jain was previously a corporate development manager at Cisco responsible for the networking giant's technology and product strategy for its data center, virtualization and cloud businesses. Jain focused on driving Cisco's technology and product strategy for its data center, virtualization and cloud business from 2011 to 2013 before founding OpsClarity, which emerged from stealth in late 2015.

OpsClarity unveiled an Intelligent Operations Platform, which brings analytics and monitoring intelligence to operations for modern web-scale applications.

21. Dominick Delfino

Last Cisco Position: Vice President, Systems Engineering

Dominick Delfino, a 14-year Cisco veteran, jumped ship to VMware in 2014. Delfino was vice president of worldwide data center and visualization systems engineering and played a large role in bringing Cisco products to market, such as the Nexus line of switches and MDS 9000 series of storage networking products.

He also helped drive sales of UCS servers and Cisco's software-defined networking ACI. Delfino is currently vice president of worldwide sales and systems engineering at VMware.

20-18. Avi Networks Founders

Last Cisco Positions: Umesh Mahajan, Vice President, General Manager, Data Center Switching; Ranga Rajagopalan, Senior Director, Engineering; Murali Basavaiah, Vice President, Software Engineering

Umesh Mahajan, Ranga Rajagopalan and Murali Basavaiah were some of Cisco's top engineers before founding networking software startup Avi Networks in 2012.

Avi provides a cloud-based application delivery solution with integrated analytics and security for on-premise and cloud-based applications.

17. Zorawar Biri Singh

Last Cisco Position: Chief Technology Officer, Senior Vice President, Cloud Services, Platforms

CRN recently discovered that Cisco's top technologist and cloud executive, Zorawar Biri Singh, is leaving the networking giant after only 15 months. Singh, Cisco's CTO and senior vice president of cloud services and platforms, was hired by the company on the first day Robbins took the helm in July 2015.

Singh was responsible for Cisco's overall technology strategy and the alignment of its architecture and product portfolio. Earlier this year, Singh explained his technology road map to CRN, which involved containers in the data center.

16. Raju Datla

Last Cisco Position: Senior Director, Cisco UCS

Raju Datla was the co-founder and CEO of Cloupia, a developer of data center and cloud automation, that Cisco acquired in November 2012. He was vice president of the computing systems product group, leading the company's UCS software division.

Shortly after leaving Cisco, Datla became the CEO of CloudFabrix Software, an application analytics and intelligence company that provides cross-layer and cross-domain application operations insights.

15. Kumar Ramachandran

Last Cisco Position: Director, Product Management, Marketing

Kumar Ramachandran, a key networking developer, helped build the company's ISR routers. Ramachandran was with Cisco for nearly 13 years, most recently as director of product management and marketing, responsible for Cisco's WAN optimization and virtualized networking portfolio.

In 2013, Ramachandran founded software-defined WAN startup CloudGenix. In a recent interview with CRN, Ramachandran took several shots at Cisco's SD-WAN solution, IWAN.

"The reason why Cisco Gold partners are flocking to us is because they find when they go to their customers and try to deploy IWAN, it's very complex and [they] oftentimes are in danger of losing customers' trust," he said.

14. Sujai Hajela

Last Cisco Position: Senior Vice President, Enterprise Networking Group

Sujai Hajela , senior vice president of Cisco's Enterprise Networking Group, left the company in October. He was in charge of product management and strategy for Cisco's wireless LAN, campus and data center switching, and campus routing portfolio.

Shortly after departing from Cisco, Hajela co-founded wireless enterprise startup Mist. Mist, named on CRN's 10 Coolest Networking Startups of 2016, has a cloud platform that applies data science and machine learning to transform and ensure mobile user experiences for enterprises.

13. Edzard Overbeek

Last Cisco Position: Senior Vice President, Cisco Services

A rumored candidate to succeed former CEO John Chambers was Edzard Overbeek, Cisco's senior vice president for Cisco Services, who led the company's services portfolio. The 15-year Cisco veteran was a major player abroad as president of Cisco's Asia-Pacific, Japan and Greater China region before becoming the top services executive in 2012. He also oversaw the design and implementation of Cisco's commercial line of businesses as vice president of the EMEA region.

Shortly after leaving Cisco this year, Overbeek became CEO of HERE, a location cloud platform company.

12. Paul Perez

Last Cisco Position: Vice President, General Manager, Computing Systems

Paul Perez was a visionary for Cisco's highly successful Unified Computing System (UCS). Perez was vice president and general manager of computing systems at Cisco, joining the company in 2011 to drive the UCS server platform for the company, which has reached a $3 billion-plus run rate with more than 41,000 customers.

Perez was hired by Dell in 2015 as CTO to build an architecture to do battle with Cisco. He left Dell in May to take a job as managing director of global technology at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

11. Rob Lloyd

Last Cisco Position: President

For years, Cisco President Rob Lloyd was seen as the most likely candidate to succeed Chambers. Shortly after it was announced the Robbins would take the helm, Lloyd said he would be leaving after 21 years with the company. Lloyd was responsible for Cisco's development and sales efforts, while he managed the alignment and acceleration of its technology innovation to enable faster response to market transitions.

After leaving Cisco, Lloyd quickly became the new CEO of transportation startup HyperLoop Technologies.

10. Padmasree Warrior

Last Cisco Position: Chief Technology, Strategy Officer

Cisco's former chief technology and strategy officer, Padmasree Warrior, left the company in September 2015 after eight years at Cisco. Warrior was responsible for Cisco's technology and operational innovation across the board, while also overseeing strategic partnerships, integration and M&A.

Warrior quickly became the new chief development officer at electric car startup NextEV. She was also named CEO of NextEV U.S., and head of software development for the Shanghai, China-based company.

9. Soni Jiandani

Last Cisco Position: Senior Vice President, Business, Marketing Development

A staple at Cisco events for years, Soni Jiandani led Cisco's Insieme unit, responsible for Cisco's next-generation data center solutions including data center analytics, orchestration and its SDN strategy, which includes its Application Centric Infrastructure – now at a $2.2 billion run rate.

Jiandani was one of the four Cisco top engineers who left the company in June after a public battle between the longtime engineers and Robbins.

According to an internal memo from Robbins obtained by CRN, the four executives’ decision to leave was "based on a disconnect regarding roles, responsibilities and charter that came to light’ after Cisco disclosed plans to place its Insieme business under the leadership of David Goeckeler, who will head the newly created Networking & Security Business Group.

8-6. Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain and Luca Cafiero

Last Cisco Positions: Various roles

Working alongside Jiandani were Cisco veterans and top engineers Mario Mazzola (pictured), Prem Jain and Luca Cafiero, who led the research and development of several of Cisco "spin-ins" -- including Insieme in 2012.

In the internal memo, Robbins said the executives "are some of the most innovative engineering and business leaders in Silicon Valley." The CEO said their positive influence on Cisco dates back to 1993.

5. Robert Soderbery

Last Cisco Position: Senior Vice President, Enterprise Products, Solutions

Robert Soderbery, Cisco's enterprise engineering leader who helped spearhead the company’s Digital Network Architecture and Meraki acquisition, said in September that he is leaving the company after a seven-year stint.

Soderbery, senior vice president of enterprise products and solutions, was a key player in Cisco’s DNA strategy, which the company sees as the answer to enabling digital businesses and includes an open, software-driven, service-centric architecture containing automation, virtualization, analytics security, managed services and open APIs. Soderbery is currently a board member at payment marketing startup UpLift.

4-2. Meraki Founders

Last Cisco Positions: Various roles

Cisco's Meraki business has been one of the company's shining stars since it acquired the startup for $1.2 billion in 2012. But just two years after acquiring Meraki, all three founders left Cisco in early 2015.

Meraki founders Sanjit Biswas (pictured), John Bicket and Hans Robertson went on to pursue other innovation areas such as the Internet of Things. Biswas and Bicket launched sensor startup Samsara last year aiming squarely at the IoT market.

1. Pankaj Patel

Last Cisco Position: Executive Vice President, Chief Development Officer

Pankaj Patel, one of the networking giant's longtime leading technologists, revealed earlier this year his plans to step down after a 20-year stint with Cisco. As executive vice president and chief development officer, he was responsible for driving innovation in Cisco's networking and data center architectures -- leading the company's $36 billion global technology portfolio and its 26,000 engineers.

"Patel has fearlessly led our 26,000-plus-strong engineering organization, helping to build the most innovative engineering engine in the industry," said Robbins in an internal memo about his departure.

Patel helped define Cisco's technology innovation strategy in routing, switching, security, video, collaboration, data center and cloud offerings.