Cisco appoints its first ever COO

Speculation is flying over whether Gary Moore has become Chambers' latest heir apparent

Cisco today announced that it was creating the job of Chief Operating Officer and appointing long-time Cisco executive Gary Moore to fill the role. Talk on the cyberstreet is that Moore has instantly become the latest heir apparent to the Chambers CEO throne.

Gary Moore
Moore joined Cisco in 2001, after two years as chief executive officer of Netigy Corp., a network services company, which was sold in that year to ThruPoint. When he arrived at Cisco, he was charged with growing Cisco's already sizable services business and that he did. Cisco services account for about $8 billion in annual revenue, the Wall Street Journal reports.

As COO, he will, effectively immediately, be responsible for the company’s engineering, marketing, operations and services organizations, Cisco said (which is pretty much the whole enchilada, isn't it?). Moore will also be responsible for the alignment and prioritization of company investments, an area that has been troubling Cisco for years and that has bubbled into a near-crisis with last quarter's financial report. Last quarter, Cisco made more money from its new products and services than it did from routers and switches. Its still-dominant position in core networking is losing share while the company tries to convince customers to move to its next-generation products. Cisco has come to a cross roads that is more profound than just a product line overhaul. It is struggling to redefine itself with new competitors, customers and pricing strategies.

With 30 so-called "market adjacencies" the company has had a hard time selling its growth vision to customers, analysts and investors. After its last quarter, where overall profits rose, but revenue dropped in its core business segment, network gear, investors ran scared. Cisco's shares hit a one-year low at $18.55 -- but Cisco's shares have struggled at under $30/share, and often under $20/share, for years. This despite, or perhaps because of, how many directions the company is pursuing at once (data center, consumer devices, enterprise, physical security, voice, video, settop boxes, Internet Web conferencing, smart grid energy ...).

Can Moore bring more order to the Cisco market-adjacency chaos? He's got a long history of being in "COO-like" roles. Before the two-year job running Netigy, Moore spent 26-years at EDS, where he helped EDS and Hitachi launch a joint project, Hitachi Data Systems and spent two years as the unit's CEO. In 1999, Hitachi acquired full ownership of HDS from EDS.

Prior to working in the public sector, Moore cut his teeth learning about IT from the U.S. Army, where he spent four years learning about cryptography and telecom.

As for heir apparent, I'm skeptical. Chambers has been at the helm since 1995. Has become fabulously rich and famous -- with goodness-knows how many millions (billions?) of his wealth depending on Cisco stock. He has shown no indication that he's planning on leaving soon, nor has the Cisco board shown much interest in asking him to leave. I'd say that Moore is no more likely to become the next CEO of Cisco than Kevin Turner is of succeeding Steve Ballmer at Microsoft.

Worse for Moore, is that being a Chambers heir apparent is almost a death sentence for a career at the company. The previous ones that could have gained the eye of the board to displace Chambers were M&A guy Mike Volpi and engineering guy Charles Giancarlo. And where are they now? Not at Cisco.

Even so, we at Cisco Subnet congratulate Moore on his promotion and wish him success.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.