Feeds

Cisco taps ex-Sun chip guru for servers

Yanks Yen from rival Juniper

Remote control for virtualized desktops

In the wake of its corporate restructuring last week, assaulted networking juggernaut and server wannabe Cisco Systems has tapped ex-Sun Microsystems executive David Yen to take over its Server Access and Virtualization Technology Group, which is responsible for its Unified Computing System blade and rack servers and its Nexus converged server-storage switches.

Perhaps one of the first things Yen can do is give this group a proper name that means something in either English or its American dialect.

A triumvirate of executives that Cisco brought in when it acquired Nuova Systems in April 2008 had been running the server and converged switch unit. Cisco said in a statement that Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, and Luca Cafiero – three of the founders of Nuova – had "decided to transition out of their current roles to supporting Cisco in an advisory capacity". Interestingly, they are being kept on as advisors to Cisco CEO and chairman John Chambers, not COO Gary Moore or new co-managers of Cisco Engineering, Padmasree Warrior (formerly CTO of the entire company) and Pankaj Patel (previously general manager of Cisco's Service Provider Group).

Nuova Systems was founded by executives who worked at Crescendo Communications, which Cisco bought in 1993 for $89m and which was the foundation for the current Catalyst line of core switches. Other executives from Cisco's Andiamo, a Fibre Channel SAN switch maker that the networking giant bought in August 2002, were also involved in the Nuova Systems project, which Cisco funded with a 20 per cent stake to get it rolling. Nuova came up with the designs for the converged Nexus switches, the UCS blade servers, and a memory expansion ASIC for the UCS boxes that allowed them to use cheaper and skinnier DDR3 memory but yet offer fat memory capacities to server buys – a key differentiator when the "California" UCS blade servers were launched in March 2009 with their integrated Nexus-style switches. For a $70m investment, Cisco basically spun off the development of its future systems and data center switches and brought it back in when it decided to go for it in the server racket and upset the apple cart with its server partners.

In its announcement of Yen's appointment as general manager of the SAVT group, Cisco boasted that the Nexus family of switches were among Cisco's fastest growing products, with Nexus 5000 switches growing 56 per cent and Nexus 2000 switches up 150 per cent in fiscal 2011. And in the 18 months since the UCS blade and rack systems started shipping, Cisco had over 4,000 customers and the machines are on a run rate of $650m in annual sales and still growing.

The question is not how well these switches are performing, but what affect Cisco's entry into the server space has diminished its prospects for core and data center networking, now that server makers are all building their own kit or going to Cisco's rivals to rebadge networking gear and running at the networking giant. And there are a slew of upstart and established network equipment providers that are gunning more aggressively for Cisco, too. So much so that Yen might wish he had stayed as general manager of the fabric and switching business group at Cisco rival Juniper Networks, where he landed in March 2008 after a two-decade stint managing UltraSparc processor design and manufacturing, storage, and servers in various roles at Sun Microsystems.

Yen is usually given credit for getting Sun's Sparc chip business back on track after it derailed a few times, and is usually able to deflect questions about his culpability relating to failed projects – like the "Millennium" UltraSparc-V and "Rock" UltraSparc-RK chips, just to name two that were supposed to be industry leading and that never saw the light of day. Sun took big risks in the chip business, as you would expect an upstart systems maker to do. IBM sat on its hands for a decade in the late 1980s and early 1990s and let Sun eat its data center lunch during the dot-com boom.

It is not clear if Yen was the one taking big risks or if his superiors at the company compelled him to do so; Yen has a reputation for being a cleaner, but heaven (well, ex-Sunners at least) only knows the truth.

The most interesting aspect of this 18-year saga with Nuovo Systems perhaps is that for whatever reason, Cisco felt compelled to do the research and development of converged switching and servers outside of the company, alienating its own executives and techies. And then, when these devices were productized as Nexus and UCS, Cisco then brought in outsiders to run the SAVT group. And now, an outsider is once again being tapped to run the unit, rather than a long-time Ciscoid.

It will be interesting to see what Yen does with the UCS and Nexus businesses. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online
Now you can run your own intelligence agency
Azure TITSUP caused by INFINITE LOOP
Fat fingered geo-block kept Aussies in the dark
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Cloud unicorns are extinct so DiData cloud mess was YOUR fault
Applications need to be built to handle TITSUP incidents
BOFH: WHERE did this 'fax-enabled' printer UPGRADE come from?
Don't worry about that cable, it's part of the config
Stop the IoT revolution! We need to figure out packet sizes first
Researchers test 802.15.4 and find we know nuh-think! about large scale sensor network ops
SanDisk vows: We'll have a 16TB SSD WHOPPER by 2016
Flash WORM has a serious use for archived photos and videos
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.