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Western Digital hands chief exec seat to boss of Cisco's networking and security biz

David Goeckeler finally gets keys to his own kingdom, says he's stoked to ride 'massive wave of new opportunity'

Storage giant Western Digital has hired David Goeckeler, boss of Cisco's $34bn networking and security biz, as its new chief exec.

Goeckler will begin his new job on March 9, replacing Steve Milligan, who announced his retirement in November.

The exec, who has been at Cisco for almost two decades, is credited with transforming Switchzilla's networking and security arms into a profitable recurring revenue-based business.

"With experience as a software engineer as well as running large semiconductor development projects, his breadth of technology expertise, business acumen and history of building and operating world-class organisations make him the right person to lead Western Digital in a world increasingly driven by applications and data," trilled Matthew Massengill, chairman of Western Digital's board.

Milligan took the reins at WD in 2015 and managed its $19bn deal to buy rival storage firm SanDisk the same year. But a recent move into data centres has gone badly, forcing the company to sell off some of the acquisitions it made as part of the push.

The traditional hardware side of WD has not fared well either. It took a battering last year as hyperscalers cut back on purchases and the US-China trade war raged on. The company has reported a net loss for two consecutive quarters as the cyclic market for storage bottomed out.

But in its most recent results, WD said that it believes the worst is over and expects "accelerated recovery" in flash gross margins for this year.

Goeckeler seems to share the optimism, which is hardly surprising. "The industry is facing an exciting inflection point where customers of every size, vertical and geography are deploying business infrastructure that is software-driven, enabled by data and powered by the cloud. This megatrend has only just now reached an initial stage of adoption and will drive a massive wave of new opportunity," he said in a statement.

Todd Nightingale, currently the general manager of Cisco Meraki, will take Goeckeler's place as managing director of the company's new, combined enterprise networking and cloud unit.

For Cisco, the change in leadership comes as the networking giant tries to shift its focus from hardware to software defined. The company recently embarked on a restructure, merging enterprise networking and the data centre business which Nightingale will head up. It also plans to expand its cloud unit to include server products.

As part of the restructure, the networking giant recently began a round of job cuts. It axed 500 programmers in California last August after reporting disappointing financial results for 2019.

The plan is estimated to cost $300m, including severance payments. About half the amount is expected to occur in the current quarter.

Milligan will remain at WD until September before he steps away from the controls. ®

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