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The 50 most powerful people in networking

By and , Network World
December 22, 2003 12:12 AM ET
The most powerful
by ranking

Network World - One of the secrets of power is knowing how to live well in the limelight. Like it or not, power obliges a person to be a role model. This twists itself into notoriety for some and celebrity status for others.

As always, our list represents the role models of the network industry across the vendor, user and regulatory communities, as well as among standards setters and big thinkers. But this year, the list is ranked, too.

For the ranking, we looked at numerous criteria, including the person's title and responsibility within the company, the person's visibility (determined by media and speaking appearances in the last year), the ways in which the person functions as a role model for the network industry and a characteristic we call "clout." Clout is how far a person's overall influence reaches, be that throughout a company, a subset of the network community, the industry, the entire business world or even with national governments.

1. John Chambers, president and CEO, Cisco

What more needs to be said about the man who readers have elected as the most powerful vendor CEO in the industry for four years running?  With his unfailing business acumen, he remains among the industry's and the business world's most-watched icons.

2. Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect, Microsoft

Gates delivered his 20th annual Comdex keynote last month, and while the influence of the annual Las Vegas trade show might be waning, Gates' is not. He is arguably the most influential figure in the software industry, at the helm of a $32 billion company with a $6.8 billion research and development budget. Sharing his vision of "seamless computing," Gates proclaimed: "There's more productivity to be gained in the advances that will come in the rest of this decade than the industry has delivered in our entire history up to this date."

3. Sam Palmisano, chairman and CEO, IBM

Palmisano raised industry hopes for economic health when he said IBM would hire about 10,000 new employees next year in areas such as services, middleware, Linux and open-standards-based hardware and software. He made the announcement in mid-October, as IBM reported third-quarter revenue of $21.5 billion - 9% higher than the $19.8 billion posted a year earlier. IBM's top dog since March 2002, Palmisano has effectively mobilized IBM's hardware, software and services divisions around a central, common technology vision: e-business on demand.

4. Carly Fiorina, chairman and CEO, HP

Fiorina's reputation as a can-do CEO was hard-won, and it's not one she plans on losing. Fiorina has aptly moved from yesterday's merger to tomorrow's business plan, a power agenda that includes securing the leadership role in building the "new data center." The $2.5 billion investment in HP's Adaptive Enterprise initiative speaks to how serious she is on that front. And Fiorina might well be as serious about going head to head with Cisco. Some industry watchers read her November resignation from the Cisco board, which she joined in 2001, as a sign of just that.

5. Linda Dillman, CIO, Wal-Mart

Dillman's decisions dictate the technology course not only for this hugely powerful retailer, but also for thousands of suppliers - with ripple effects across the network industry. Take Dillman's June announcement on radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. To a standing-room audience at a retail trade show, Dillman said Wal-Mart would require its top suppliers to implant RFID chips in cases and pallets starting in 2004, with all suppliers required to do so by 2006. Analysts say this move might nearly single-handedly create a $2 billion RFID market.

6. Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and CEO, Verizon

As leader of the nation's largest regional Bell, Seidenberg solidified his power in November when he officially acquired the chairman title, some eight months earlier than designated in the Bell Atlantic/GTE merger agreement of 2000. Seidenberg continues to be a headliner on the speaker circuit, never failing to infuse his talks with what has become his trademark message: Government regulation is suppressing innovation, hence recovery, of the telecom sector.

7. Michael Dell, chairman and CEO, Dell

Dell has risen to the top of the network industry, but has clearly yet to hit his peak. His was the fastest-growing power in our annual Powerometer reader survey, and he has become a relied-upon business and technology adviser not only to Washington policy makers, but also to world leaders.

8. John Thompson, chairman and CEO, Symantec

Thompson led Symantec through a whopper of a year, landing it for the second consecutive year on our list of the 10 most powerful companies in networking. No wonder. Thompson orchestrated sterling financials, several big customer wins and the No. 1 market position for a security vendor by revenue. He also completed two all-cash acquisitions, plus other deals. Thompson, who sits on several government advisory committees, also serves on the boards of UPS, NiSource, Seagate and Crystal Decisions. In 2003, he grew higher in business-world fame, starring in countless trade and business-press publications and as the keynote speaker at Fall Comdex, among other appearances.

9. Joseph Tucci, president and CEO, EMC

Tucci this year took EMC on an acquisition spree, topping off 2003 with the mid-December acquisition of virtualization software vendor VMware for $635 million in cash. This follows the $1.3 billion deal for back-up and recovery software maker Legato Systems Tucci orchestrated in July, and two acquisitions he oversaw in October - the $1.7 billion buyout of content management software specialist Documentum, and the purchase of storage resource management vendor Astrum, for an undisclosed amount. These will help Tucci, who advocates what industry watchers have dubbed information life-cycle management (ILM), broaden EMC's technology focus beyond high-end storage platforms. ILM is a strategy to link storage archiving technologies with content creation and data-recovery capabilities.

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