Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Sunday, October 2, 2022

Robbins Succeeds Chambers at Cisco 

Chuck Robbins, a 17-year veteran of Cisco Systems, was named Monday (May 4) to succeed Silicon Valley icon John Chambers as CEO of the global networking giant.

Robbins' ascension to the top post at Cisco comes as the networking giants looks for ways to leverage its installed base of routers, switches and other Internet hardware as the shift to network virtualization and software-defined networks gathers momentum.

The 65-year-old Chambers has also redirected the networking company's focus to the emerging Internet of Things, or what Chambers' strategy refers to as the Internet of Everything, in which all devices and sensors are linked. A key part of the Cisco strategy is seeking to move intelligence farther out to the edge of networks as sensors generate huge volumes of data.

Cisco said Chambers would become executive chairman of the company's board effective on July 26, the day Robbins assumes the CEO post.

Robbins, 49, previously served as Cisco's senior vice president of worldwide operations. Cisco listed Robbins as a "key sponsor" of its Sourcefire security and Meraki cloud acquisitions. Cisco said late last year it had completed the integration of Sourcefire network security and threat detection products into its network security platform.

The company has also sought to flesh out its cloud strategy running on the Meraki Cloud through its Intercloud initiative designed to manage enterprise-level cloud IT services.

"The opportunity really is about this next wave of the Internet," Robbins asserted in a company video interview. "The digitization that we are seeing with our customers around the world, countries around the world want to do this. It is simply in the wheelhouse of what we've always done with connectivity, convergence and adding value on top of that."

Robbins indicated that more acquisitions are likely as he reviews Cisco's portfolio and decide which segments "we need to continue to add fuel to." As the company builds out its Intercloud strategy and pushes into the Internet of Everything, the networking giant will likely consider the growing number of software-defined networking and network features virtualization startups that are springing up like weeds.

Chambers transition away from Cisco's daily business operations is similar to the role Larry Ellison assumed at database leader Oracle last year. Ellison also retained the title of chief technology officer. The shifts at Cisco and Oracle signal a reboot of executive leadership in Silicon Valley as iconic companies try to figure out the next phase of big-data driven computing and assemble the pieces needed to meet the soaring infrastructure needs of enterprises bent on adopting hyper-scale operations.

Asked about his new role, Chambers said it would involve "initially focusing more externally, focusing more on country transformations, focusing on some the strategic relationships that are so important to us." Chambers said he and Robbins would define his role over the next year or so as Chambers transfers more responsibilities to a new executive team.

Robbins, who holds a mathematics degree with a concentration in computer science, previously worked for Bay Networks and Ascend Communications before joining Cisco in 1997 as an account manager.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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