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New Cisco CEO Robbins unlikely to make dramatic changes

The choice of sales veteran Chuck Robbins to replace retiring Cisco CEO John Chambers points to continuity in product development.

Cisco's CEO-to-be Chuck Robbins is not expected to make dramatic changes to the networking company's product line....

Instead, the sales veteran is likely to concentrate on making large software deals.

Cisco's most daunting challenge is shifting its hardware-based business model to one bent on selling software that performs many network functions, experts say. The networking industry as a whole is making that transition, and Cisco's history as a maker of expensive hardware has made it vulnerable to startups building innovative software.

"Cisco increasingly will have to adapt to software-based business models and sales processes," IDC analyst Brad Casemore said. "Having a CEO who understands how to work with channel partners and how to devise solutions sales could be critical to that transition and to the company’s future success."

I don't think the product direction will change drastically.
Dan Condeanalyst for Enterprise Strategy Group

Cisco announced May 4 that Robbins would succeed 20-year CEO John Chambers on July 26. Robbins, 49, was senior vice president of business operations. His job made him responsible for sales and partner programs that brought in most of the company's $47 billion in annual revenue.

Dramatic Cisco product changes unlikely

Cisco's choice of Robbins indicates the company was looking for continuity. Chambers also had a sales background and counted Robbins as one of his closest advisers.

"I don't think the product direction will change drastically," said Dan Conde, analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group.

Robbins told reporters in a teleconference that Cisco's overall strategy for remaining a dominant player in the networking industry is working. He acknowledged, however, there are "areas within the strategy that we can actually accelerate."

One of those areas is security. "We believe it's a tremendous architectural opportunity for us," he said.

Robbins also planned to continue focusing on analytics, computing power and software for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Reseller wants more SDN R&D

Software-defined networking is another product category generating high interest among Cisco customers and resellers. Last July, the company launched the Application Centric Infrastructure product line of switches and software. ACI competes with SDN technology from VMware and smaller players like Big Switch Networks and Cumulus Networks.

"I hope to see him (Robbins) continue to invest in R&D and marketing for ACI and SDN technologies, two areas critical for our continued Cisco growth," said Jason Gress, president and co-founder of reseller InterVision Systems Technologies.

On the operations side, Robbins indicated he would be diligent in holding down expenses. Over the last several years, Cisco has undergone a massive reorganization that included thousands of layoffs and cost cutting.

"The operational rigor that we've had in this company, which has actually been one of the key tenets of our success, I believe we can actually double down, we can accelerate and continue to even improve that," Robbins said.

Next Steps

Cisco vs. VMware: Which will win over network engineers

The difference between Cisco ACI and SDN

Why Cisco's semi-open SDN outdoes VMware NSX

Dig Deeper on Network Hardware

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