Three Four top Cisco execs leave after being made 'advisors'

Senior veeps responsible for 'spin-in' acquisitions exit

Updated Last week, a Cisco reorganisation switched three of its big names to advisory roles: this week, they've left the company.

The individuals involved are Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero, and Soni Jiandani were referred to as “MPLS” within the company (Cisco was an early contributor to the protocol of the same acronym).

Under previous CEO John Chambers, Mazola, Jain and Cafiero were responsible for a number of “spin-in” acquisitions stretching back to the 1990s: they would set up a company with Cisco financing to develop products, and get wrapped back into the company once they'd shown results. Among other things, that was the approach that gave the company its flagship Nexus 9000.

The last spin-in the three worked on was software-defined networking outfit Inseime: Cisco sent the three to graze on a cash-pot upwards of US$100 million, then in November 2013 re-assimilated the outfit for $863 million.

Inseime then provided the backbone of the SDN part of Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure, first showing up in the Nexus 9508 eight-slot switch.

Mazola, Jain and Cafiero were moved to “advisory” roles last week by Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, successor to John Chambers who originated Cisco's spin-in strategy.

That didn't please them, apparently: The Wall Street Journal now says they've quit.

Marketwatch quotes an internal memo from Robbins that “a disconnect regarding roles, responsibilities and charter … came to light immediately after the announcement”.

That, and suddenly finding yourself going from senior veep to external advisor.

The switching and routing space has been troublesome for Cisco for some time. Yesterday, The Register noted IDC's latest numbers, in which the company's slipping Ethernet switch revenues were sufficient to cast a pall over the entire market.

In May, Robbins had to put a brave face on flat revenue across the whole company, with switching down three per cent year-over-year for the quarter ending in April, and routing down by five per cent.

The departure of Mazola, Jain and Cafiero might be seen as the sun setting on the spin-in strategy. Alternatively, Robbins might be looking to people not so closely aligned with his predecessor – or even to seek out a new generation to run the semi-outsourced product development model. ®

Updated to add

An earlier version of this article said three of the "MPLS" group were leaving but Soni Jiandani was remaining to manage Inseime.

Cisco has contacted The Register to confirm that all four in MPLS are leaving on June 17. The company told us there was no demotion involved in their being given advisor status, since they were to retain their "senior vice president" status.

The company offered this comment on behalf of Robbins: "I want to recognize Mario, Prem, Luca, and Soni for the countless contributions they have made to Cisco. I have personally learned so much from them, and they will always be an important part of Cisco’s engineering story. Their legacy will live on through our ongoing innovation and the talented engineering leaders they have mentored. I wish them the best."

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