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Cisco storage chiefs retire en masse

Cisco announced that Cafiero, Jiandani, Jain and Mazzola are retiring, leaving the company's storage business without proven leaders just as the business gains a foothold.

Cisco Systems Inc. confirmed the retirement of four of its top executives Thursday night, including chief development officer Mario Mazzola and senior vice presidents Luca Cafiero, Prem Jain and Soni Jiandani.

All four were founding members of Cisco's Fibre Channel switching startup and "spin-in" Andiamo Systems Inc., and built the company's storage business from zero to become a major force in the industry.

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The four had worked together for almost 20 years and had been at Cisco for over a decade. Their departure is "the natural course of events," said a company spokesman.

Industry experts say the resignations raise questions over Cisco's future storage strategy and claim the jury is now out on how successful the company can be once the proven players have left. They are expected to leave on July 31.

Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president of Cisco's security group, will take over managing the data center and switching business, formerly under Cafiero. The storage group resides within this unit and was headed by Jiandani. As yet, Cisco has not found a replacement for Jiandani.

Market share up, but revenue still small

Since entering the storage market in 2001, Cisco has gradually taken share from key competitors -- Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and McData Corp. -- but this has yet to pan out into significant revenue, at least in the Cisco scheme of things.

The company announced its third-quarter earnings in May and reported storage revenue of around $70 million, a 70% year-over-year growth. Overall, Cisco reported a net income of $1.4 billion on revenues of $6.19 billion.

The question everyone is asking now is: What will Cisco do to meet the company's internal goal of a billion dollars in revenue from the storage market place? Certainly, selling Fibre Channel switches alone isn't going to get it there.


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