Polycom Hires Away Cisco UC Executive

Polycom lures away Joseph Burton from Cisco to become the company's CTO, one of several executive appointments as the company looks to expand its unified communications business.

Polycom, which has seen rivals like Cisco Systems and Avaya grow their reach in the unified communications space, is making high-profile moves of its own, reorganizing its business strategy and revamping its executive lineup.

The biggest name to come to Polycom is Joseph Burton, CTO for Cisco's UC business since 2007. On Sept. 20, Burton became Polycom's senior vice president, chief strategist and CTO.

Along with the six new executives, Polycom is creating three new business lines-enterprise and public sector, SMBs, and service providers-and is combining its telepresence, video collaboration and voice communications businesses into a single R&D unit.

The moves come less than five months after Andrew Miller, a former executive with both Cisco and Tandberg, took over as CEO and talked about Polycom's promise in the industry.

Burton said he came to Polycom because of its technology and its people, and the singular focus on the UC space.

"Everybody at Polycom gets out of bed in the morning and asks themselves, 'How can we build the best unified communications products?'" he said in an interview with eWEEK.

Burton pointed to Polycom's open technology and its partnerships with the likes of Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper Networks as key attributes that dovetail with the realities of enterprise communications environments. Businesses are looking to UC technologies to help reduce expenses such as travel costs and to help improve employee productivity.

The market is growing, with estimates putting spending at more than $14 billion by 2015, according to Burton.

However, businesses aren't looking for huge rip-and-replace projects, he said. Instead, they are looking for incremental deployments of new technologies that take advantage of what is already in-house. In addition, businesses aren't looking for single-vendor environments, making partnerships crucial, Burton said.

"No vendor can [provide] a true end-to-end, single-vendor approach," he said.

The market is undergoing rapid change and consolidation as vendors look to position themselves for the expected growth. For example, Cisco earlier this year bought Tandberg for $3.4 billion to bolster is video communications capabilities. More recently, Avaya officials on Sept. 15 announced an expansion of their business into the video communications space, including rolling out a tabletlike device similar to Cisco's Cius.

Another key Polycom appointment was that of Sudhakar Ramakrishna as senior vice president and general manager of products, and chief development officer. Ramakrishna, who will join Polycom Oct. 11, currently is corporate vice president and general manager for Motorola's Wireless Broadband Access Solutions and Software Operations units.

Susan Hayden, group vice president of sales for OracleDirect, Oracle's SMB business, is being appointed executive vice president and general manager of Polycom's SMB unit.