Why Cisco lost two key officials in data center, cloud

Company too slow to respond or not committed enough to newer networking trends

employees leaving

The departures of two key players in data center and OpenStack indicate that Cisco’s conflicted interests may be driving away top talent in important markets. Cisco’s propensity to protect its installed base through proprietary technology while at the same time tactically embracing standards translates into slow, plodding advances on trends like software-defined networking, and OpenStack, sources say.

It also incites political stand-offs internally that further impede the company’s ability to address these new phenomena.


Dom Delfino, vice president of systems engineering for data center and virtualization, and Kyle Mestery, principal engineer in the Office of the Cloud CTO, either left or are leaving Cisco for rivals VMware and HP. Delfino was responsible for pre-sales engagement with accounts for vital Cisco products like Application Centric Infrastructure and Unified Computing System.

Mestery was Cisco’s chief OpenStack architect, responsible for Cisco's open source strategy around OpenStack integration into the product portfolio. He starts at HP next week.

Their defections signal that Cisco’s strategies and agility in these two vital markets might be at odds with the talent retained and responsible for driving and/or developing them. In data center, Cisco’s just not moving fast enough compared to competitors and start-ups, and that prompted Delfino’s departure, sources say.

Management inertia, installed base baggage, analysis paralysis on the implications of SDN, cloud and open source, and internal politics all played a role in Delfino’s decision to defect to rival VMware, they say. Also, Cisco’s revenue and margins are being compressed so field sales people have to work much harder for the same dollar – what it takes to make a dollar costs a lot more energy than ever.

Delfino, now vice president of worldwide systems engineering at VMware, declined comment for this story.


In Mestery’s case, OpenStack is being used more as a tactical anti-VMware marketing tool by Cisco than as a strategic cloud platform, sources say. Indeed, Cisco’s Internet of Everything foundation is internally-developed ACI and Intercloud, while the multivendor, community-developed OpenStack is but an adjunct to that.

And the recently expanded relationship between Cisco and Red Hat is intended to encourage customers to convert to the KVM hypervisor so that VMware is either cut out of deals or forced to discount deeper in order to win them, sources say.

Mestery’s OpenStack ambitions are more strategic than Cisco’s, which attracted him to HP, sources say. HP is now the leading contributor to OpenStack, and Mestery wanted to work at a place deploying OpenStack at scale and solving issues related to that.

Cisco declined a request to speak with Mestery and would not address his imminent departure as a matter of policy. The company did, however, issue this statement from Lew Tucker, vice president and CTO for Cloud Computing and vice chairman of the OpenStack foundation:

As evidenced by the recent announcements around our Intercloud initiative and last week’s announced acquisition of Metacloud, which deploys and operates private clouds with a unique OpenStack-as-a-Service model, Cisco remains firmly committed to OpenStack.   With numerous blueprints and open source code contributions, Cisco is continuing to advance state-of-the-art of cloud computing within the OpenStack community.

But in the cases of Mestery and Delfino, Cisco’s words may not be matching its deeds. Its strategic imperatives in data center and open source/OpenStack may actually be driving talent away.

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