The 50 most powerful people in networking

This year's ranked 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

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.

10. David Dorman, chairman and CEO, AT&T

Dorman remains ever focused on ending AT&T's financial slide, manifest in early December with his surprise replacement of AT&T President Betsy Bernard with old chum and one-time SBC executive William Hannigan. While Bernard had been considered a cost cutter, Hannigan is seen as a revenue grower. This move topped a year of Dorman's executive juggling, which included naming new heads of sales, network operations and other positions. The 49-year-old Dorman is also a powerful member of the community, holding a board position at an Episcopal high school in Alexandria, Va.

11. Ed Whitacre, chairman and CEO, SBC

As always, Whitacre is shaking up the industry. In July, with great fanfare, he announced a joint marketing deal with satellite TV provider Echostar that makes SBC the first RBOC to tangle with satellite and cable companies over their mainstay, television services. The agreement creates the so-called "quadruple play" bundle, planned for early 2004, in which SBC customers can be billed for multichannel television, local and long-distance voice, wireless, and broadband services by a single provider. He sealed the deal by investing $500 million in Echostar as part of the arrangement. When he wasn't crafting television deals, he was crisscrossing the country lobbying for an end to regulations that let competitors such as AT&T use his network at cut-rate prices.

12. Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft

Ballmer likes to joke that he can't remember the name of that pesky open source competitor, Linux. But it's really no laughing matter for the CEO of the world's most powerful software company. With anti-trust troubles largely behind him, at least in the U.S., the open source movement is one of Ballmer's next great battlegrounds. Securing Microsoft products is the other.

13. Tony Scott, CTO, General Motors

Scott's role at GM exposes him to myriad technology issues raised in dealing with 340,000 employees, one of the most complex supply chains in the world and a vast distribution network of independent dealers. One topic that consumes much of his attention these days is identity management. Scott represents GM on the management board of the Liberty Alliance Project, and this year Scott started work on the first projects in GM to use Liberty-compliant software, including integrating the identity management software with GM's corporatewide Lightweight Directory Access Protocol directory and employee portal architecture.

14. Doug Elix, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Global Services

From his native Australia to the U.S., Elix has made a mark at IBM and in the network industry at large. He shepherds IBM Global Services' 170,000 professionals in 160 countries as they chalk up one successful enterprise deal after another. IBM Global Services reported annual revenue of $36 billion in 2002 and already had reached the $21 billion range in the first half of this year. Elix is known to promote the power of the individual within an organization and for challenging IT executives to embrace open standards so they can make their organizations more powerful.

15. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, (pictured) (D-Md.); and Rep. Michael Oxley, (R-Ohio)

This legislative duo is behind the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, a set of corporate disclosure rules that require publicly traded companies to provide more timely, accurate and detailed financial reports. Conceived in the wake of huge corporate scandals, the bill is designed to reform the accounting industry and restore investor confidence. At the same time, the bill is driving companies to modernize their financial reporting systems and invest in areas such as business process changes, corporate governance and consulting. Compliance is expected to be expensive: Collectively, the Fortune 1000 companies will have spent $2.5 billion in 2003 on the act's initiatives, according to AMR Research. Sarbanes-Oxley is representative of several other regulatory initiatives compelling companies to spend IT dollars.

16. Rhonda MacLean, senior vice president and director of corporate information security, Bank of America

MacLean is a longtime leader in corporate information security processes. Before joining Bank of America in 1996, she held down the security fort for 14 years at Boeing. In May 2002, the U.S. Department of the Treasury appointed MacLean as the financial services industry representative for the critical infrastructure protection and homeland security programs. She's a top name elsewhere, leading Bank of America to found a security testing center for its industry and serving on the boards of other security organizations. She also serves in an advisory role to various Washington, D.C., policy makers.

17. Charlie Giancarlo, senior vice president and general manager, switching, voice and storage, Cisco; president, Cisco-Linksys

Giancarlo is among the foragers at Cisco looking for new technology territories to conquer. And with voice and storage under his purview, he's got some of the biggest opportunities ahead of him. Giancarlo also gets to lead the company's charge into the consumer and home office markets as head of the independent Cisco-Linksys division, formed after Cisco acquired Linksys early this year.

18. George Samenuk, chairman and CEO, Network Associates

While Network Associates wavered on the financial tightrope, having to restate earnings in March for the three fiscal years prior to his arrival in 2001, Samenuk finessed some powerful year-end results for the company. He led Network Associates to healthier financials by mid-year and positioned the company well enough by October to acquire three companies. Among those acquisitions was the $100 million deal for intrusion-prevention vendor IntruVert Networks. Samenuk also serves on the New York Stock Exchange's advisory committee.

19. Fred Wettling, chairman, Network Applications Consortium (NAC); and infrastructure architecture manager, Bechtel

In his capacity at NAC, Wettling leads a formidable group of IT influencers from companies including Boeing, Chevron, Texaco, GlaxoSmithKline and Walt Disney. NAC member companies - which pull in combined revenue of more than $750 billion - speak with one authoritative voice that can make vendors squirm.

20. Larry Ellison, chairman and CEO, Oracle

Whatever you might think about Ellison, the man is never dull. His 2003 antics starred the almost-forgotten tactic of the hostile takeover. Although his unsolicited bid for PeopleSoft might not succeed, it has kept Oracle and IT infrastructure in the minds of corporate America and on the front pages of the business press.Through his business chutzpah, Ellison's power remains strong.

21. Craig Conway, president and CEO, PeopleSoft

Conway has had to play at the top of his game this year. The PeopleSoft leader scored an offensive win in June with the acquisition of rival J.D. Edwards, and since then he's managed to keep Oracle, with its hostile $7.3 billion takeover bid, at bay. His defensive tactics have included crafting a controversial plan that promises refunds of between two and five times the license fees customers pay if PeopleSoft is acquired by a company that disrupts its product plans.

22. Brian Roberts, president and CEO, Comcast

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