Cisco’s Next CEO

rob-lloyd-ciscoCisco Systems (CSCO) CEO John Chambers shared the stage with Cisco President Rob Lloyd today in New York. During this extremely important moment — the Insieme acquisition, the Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) launch, and the Software-defined Networking (SDN) chatter — Chambers and Lloyd had equal stage time on their own while also hosting customer and partner panels. It made The VAR Guy wonder: Was this also Rob Lloyd’s audition — in front of Wall Street — to potentially succeed Chambers as CEO?

As you may recall, Chambers back in September 2012 said he planned to retire in two to four years. The succession plan included a list of roughly 10 Cisco candidates. Fast forward to the present and a successor could come in one to three years.

Cisco CEO Candidates…

Last year, The VAR Guy assumed Rob Lloyd was the leading candidate to succeed Chambers. Lloyd, after all, is constantly at Chambers’ side during major conferences such as Cisco Partner Summit. Chambers often defers to Lloyd to answer technology and business questions from the media, financial and tech analysts.

But in recent months, The VAR Guy has heard more and more whispers about Chuck Robbins taking the lead in the CEO succession race. Robbins, the pundits said, is a natural salesman who also knows how to work a crowd.

Big Apple, Big Spotlight, Big Launch

Still, today’s crowd in New York represented the most important Cisco gathering in recent years. Investors, analysts, customers and partners gathered to hear about Cisco’s most important platform push — ACI — in quite some time.

  • Do you remember the shift from shared networks to switching?
  • Do you also recall the push to converged servers, storage and networking?

ACI, in some respects, could be even bigger than both of those. The reason: Big rivals and startups are pitching software-defined networking (SDN) to disrupt Cisco’s traditional networking business. Cisco has a somewhat different spin, insisting that next-generation networks must leverage the power of both hardware and software, using an ACI approach.

Who’s On Stage?

So for this huge moment — a potential defining day in Cisco’s history — the company essentially put two executives on stage:

  • John Chambers
  • Rob Lloyd

The other Cisco CEO candidates — folks like CTO Padmasree Warrior and Senior VP Chuck Robbins — were not on stage, to the best of The VAR Guy’s knowledge.

So how did Lloyd do during his time in the spotlight today? The answer is mixed. He ultimately got the message across — partners and customers want easier-to-manage, flexible, scalable, application-centric networks. But at times he struggled to find the right words; speaking on the fly with panelists isn’t his strength. That’s especially apparent when compared to Chambers, who has the gift of gab when speaking one-on-one or with a crowd.

The VAR Guy Predicts…

Still, public speaking is only a small part of the CEO job. Lloyd has tons of talent on the development and sales fronts. If The VAR Guy had to guess, both Lloyd and Robbins are the leading candidates for the CEO post.But that’s just a guess… for now…

By |November 28, 2014|People on the Move| 15004 Views |

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