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Outlook 09

10 tech people you should know

These power-brokers’ decisions could shape enterprise IT for years to come

By , Network World
January 05, 2009 12:01 AM ET

Network World - It's a good time to be an innovator - or in a position to encourage, recognize and reward innovation. And it's a good time to pay attention to the technology agendas of such people. Your company's viability may ultimately be ensured by the innovation these 10 people are driving from the labs to the enterprise.
Flip through a slide show of vital stats for these 10 IT leaders.

John Chambers, CEO, Cisco

John ChambersCiscosales

The timing is lousy, because Cisco is set to move forward with its biggest product launch in years: the Nexus data-center switch platform, unveiled early in 2008. The company spent about $250 million developing Nexus, which has a unified switching fabric combining Ethernet, IP and storage capabilities. The platform is intended to cement a broader role for Cisco in the data center - but Chambers needs early adopters to step up this year.

On the positive side, Cisco means a lot more than switching. In its fiscal quarter that ended Oct. 25, the company showed solid growth in its advanced technologies unit, which includes application networking services (a 25% increase year over year), unified communications (+22%), video systems (+21%), wireless (+21%) and security (+19%).

Cisco also can draw from its experiences navigating economic slowdowns to get through the current one: "We did this in 1993, 1997, 2001, 2003, and in each scenario we gained both wallet share, and in my opinion, profit share," Chambers told investors in November. "As a result, we were better positioned coming out of these transitions vs. our peers."

Paul Maritz, CEO, VMware

Paul MaritzAs 2009 kicks off, Maritz is poised to move past the executive turmoil that scuttled VMware's upper ranks during the last several months. It began with Maritz's arrival in July and the ousting of then-CEO Diane Greene; those events were followed in September by the departures of co-founder (and Greene's husband) Mendel Rosenblum, who had been chief scientist, and Richard Sarwal, who led R&D. Then, in November VMware's senior director for security products, Nand Mulchandani, left the company for a start-up.

Amid the drama, VMware retooled its desktop virtualization technology and released a new hypervisor for mobile phones. Most significantly, Maritz unveiled plans for VMware's expansion in the data center via the Virtual Datacenter Operating System, which is designed to aggregate virtualized servers, storage and network resources into a single pool of computing resources. Components of VDC-OS, including vNetworks and vStorage for managing virtual pools of switches and storage equipment, are expected to ship throughout this year.

Looking ahead to the business agenda, Maritz needs to find a healthy tempo as the 10-year-old company completes its transition from a rock-star start-up to a mature vendor with more sustainable - albeit less meteoric - growth. Maritz also needs to fend off hypervisor newcomer Microsoft (his former employer) and increased pressure from Citrix Systems. It's a tall order, particularly in this tough economy, but VMware still enjoys prime market position and a reputation for innovation. (Read an interview with Maritz.)

Mike Neil, general manager of virtualization strategy, Microsoft

Mike NeilMicrosoft was undeniably late to the hypervisor game, but it has an ace up its sleeve: Nine out of 10 guest operating systems that run on rival VMware's virtualization platform are Windows servers. So, if an enterprise is running Windows already, why not use Microsoft's Hyper-V server virtualization technology?

Making Hyper-V available for free definitely helped generate a buzz when the hypervisor was launched last summer. Nevertheless, the real battle for server-virtualization dominance will be fought over the features that enterprises value most: management, security, availability and performance. (For in-depth virtualization analysis, see "The virtual spectrum," a special New Data Center issue.)

As Microsoft's virtualization strategist, Neil has been talking up the multiplatform management features of the newly available System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, which lets users configure and deploy virtual machines running on Hyper-V and VMware platforms. Virtualization also is a key part of Windows Server 2008 R2: When R2 ships in 2010, it will include a much-anticipated live migration feature that was pulled from the first release of Hyper-V. In addition, there's the desktop, where Microsoft is aiming its new App-V application-virtualization solution. In classic Microsoft form, the company isn't letting its late-entry status dampen its market ambitions. (Read an interview with Neil.)

Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of the Windows and Windows Live engineering group, Microsoft

Steve SinofskyA scarcity of details about Windows 7 has served only to heighten interest in the forthcoming client operating system that will succeed the less-than-celebrated Windows Vista. Leading the charge to get Windows 7 out the door is Sinofsky, who presided over the first public demonstration of the operating system in November and has pledged not to make promises the Windows 7 team can't deliver: "We, as a team, definitely learned some lessons about 'disclosure' and how we can all too easily get ahead of ourselves in talking about features before our understanding of them is solid," he blogged in August 2008. "Our intent with Windows 7 and the prerelease communication is to make sure that we have a reasonable degree of confidence in what we talk about when we do talk."

What is known is that Microsoft is building the operating system on the Windows Vista code base to avoid the sort of application-compatibility problems that plagued Vista early in its release. Among the expected features of Windows 7 are revamped application security, data security and deployment features; and Microsoft has dropped hints of a more modular operating system and performance boosts. (Click here for a story on seven Windows 7 developments you should know about.) There's no firm release date for Windows 7, but Microsoft has said it will arrive by January 2010. Sinofsky's hard-earned reputation for getting new versions of Microsoft Office out the door on a regular, 18-month schedule bodes well for an early arrival.

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