Is Cisco Preparing for Giancarlo's Departure?

Reporters Notebook: A recent reorganization may be a sign that Charlie Giancarlo is getting ready to move on.

Cisco Systems recent reorganization of its development organization may be an indication that the company is preparing for the eventual departure of Chief Development Officer Charlie Giancarlo. That's the view of a source close to Cisco who noted that Giancarlo is thought to be hungry for an opportunity to run a large technology company himself.

Giancarlo has long been viewed as the logical successor to Chairman and CEO John Chambers. However, Chambers earlier this year committed to another five years at Cisco's helm.

Although Giancarlo spoke at the annual C-Scape conference in San Jose, his presence was minimal. His usual fireside chat on day two was replaced by a Cisco-directed Q&A with CIO Rebecca Jacoby and Rob Lloyd, senior vice president of U.S. and Canada operations.

"He presented a minimal amount-not as much as you'd expect of someone who's perceived as the heir apparent to John Chambers," said Dave Passmore, a consultant with The Burton Group. "I didn't see him floating around as much. Usually he's a lot more visible at the conference," he added.

Under the reorganization in engineering, announced Dec. 6, Cisco created four new groups in that include the Access Networking and Services Group under Senior Vice President Kathy Hill; the Consumer and Small Business Group led by Senior Vice President Ned Hooper; the Data Center, Switching and Services Group led by Senior Vice President Jayshree Ullal; and the Software Group led by Senior Vice President Don Proctor. In his opening keynote at the C-Scape analyst conference on Dec. 11, Chambers touted recent restructuring as an example of how Cisco has learned to "think as a group to make decisions at speeds not possible before," said in his opening keynote.

Click here to read more about a reorganization of Cisco's channel executives.

At the same time Cisco created a development council made up of those leaders as well as other peers including Service Provider Technology Group head Tony Bates, Emerging Technologies Group head Marthin DeBeer and Senior Vice President Pankaj Patel. Giancarlo chairs the new council.

The mission of the council is to push Cisco to be more effective in delivering more focused and integrated products. "My staff now owns the integration initiatives," Giancarlo said during his presentation.

The C-Scape conference itself was heavily focused on collaboration in all its forms, including video, podcasts, wikis, and personalized applications. To say Cisco is bullish on video and Web 2.0 is an understatement.

Cisco leaned heavily on its expanding Telepresence line of high-end video conferencing products in its presentations. And although Cisco to date only counts 100 customers using it, Chambers, in a one-on-one interview with eWEEK, said he fully expects large customers to deploy those units in the hundreds in the not-too-distant future.

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Chambers himself makes extensive use of the Telepresence systems. "Within the next three years I'll double the number of customers I touch and cut my travel in half," he said in his keynote.

Of course, he has a system in his office, and he's quite facile in using it. During his interview with eWEEK, he made a random call to a system in Austria, surprising a Cisco employee who entered the Telepresence conference room to set up a planned meeting. The look on the employee's face when he realized who was on the other end of connection was priceless.

The next potential member of the Telepresence family could include a new large screen version for larger rooms. According to Marthin DeBeer, Cisco now has a prototype of such a screen.

Despite Cisco's widespread internal use of the technology, it's applicability across inter-company network boundaries or service provider boundaries is limited. Cisco is, however now testing peering points for Multiprotocol Label Switching VPNs, and the company will over the next quarter put together partnerships with a handful of service providers.

Read more here about the C-Scape conference.

And the fact that each installation requires Cisco professional services to install and tune the network for it makes it expensive and limits its deployment to large companies.

In one other hint of things to come in the near term, Cisco should soon have an application acceleration client for mobile workers to complement its Wide Area Application Services hardware for remote branch offices and data centers.

George Kurian, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Application Delivery business unit, would not say what "soon" meant, but he hinted that Cisco would also certify its WAAS technology with more applications beyond the specific work it has done with SAP to accelerate its ERP applications over WAN links.

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