Former Cisco exec rejoins networking giant to head data center initiative

Cisco says Roland Acra has rejoined the company as a senior vice-president/general manager for its data center business


Cisco today said Roland Acra has rejoined the company as a senior vice-president/general manager for its data center business. If the name sounds familiar to Cisco watchers anyway, that’s because this will be Acra’s third stint with the company since 1991.

“As a long-standing industry expert in Internet routing, software engineering and communication protocol development, Roland fits right in – once again. He is a Cisco veteran having held several general management and executive leadership positions from 1991 – 2003. In 2010, he came back to Cisco as Vice President in our Smart Grid Business Unit, following the acquisition of Arch Rock, a developer of IPv6-based wireless sensor networks where he served as President and CEO. Prior to Arch Rock, he was the President and CEO of Procket Networks,” wrote David Goeckeler senior VP/GM for Cisco’s networking and security business in a blog about Acra’s return.

Acra's earlier career was in software development in networking and operating systems, including at 3Com and Interphase.

“He understands the market dynamics, the massive opportunity we have from cloud disruption, what our customers’ need from our development strategies and how to build a software business. Equally as important, he understands from hands-on experience how to operate a large engineering team at the scale of Cisco,” Goeckeler stated.

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He’ll have a big job too as Roland will be responsible for defining the company’s future data center strategy. Roland’s group will include all data center switching products – including the Nexus line -- NX2/4/5/6K, NX3K, NX7K, and NX9K as well as the Unified Computing System and storage area networks technology. Cisco will consolidate all of the NX operating system development team under this group as well, Goeckeler said.

Data center technologies are changing as some customers look to taking off the shelf switching hardware utilizing open source operating systems to run it. Other challenges from competitors such as Arista, HPE, Dell/EMC, VMware and others that are challenging Cisco.

In a recent Network World interview with CEO Robbins he said of this new environment:

“There are applications that lend themselves to containers. There are still virtual-hypervisor-based solutions. There’s OpenStack and then there are these hyperconverged solutions that exist out there. That that’s one piece of what our customers are looking for. I personally do not buy into the fact that everything is about the software and that the hardware element of it, that they’re agnostic to it. Perhaps you’re agnostic assuming that the performance level of the hardware is good enough.

“But these data centers need application performance in wire speed, with analytics and security that you’re ultimately going to want to drive in the data center so that you have visibility to what your applications are doing, you have greater security visibility to what may be going on as an anomaly in an application flow. Those are going to require high-performance hardware to happen. That’s just a fact. All those use cases are areas that we want to focus on with our customers. As it relates to our hyperconverged offer, we said in our earnings call that in Q4 we added 500 customers and it was very early in the solution that we’ve brought to market. We have more innovation planned over the coming quarters. I think 500 customers making that decision in one quarter says that we’re moving in the right direction.”

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The Acra announcement also comes on a year’s worth of big executive departures for Cisco. Most recently Cisco’s chief technology officerZorawar Biri Singh left and others such as Cisco’s enterprise engineering organizations, Robert Soderbery, left the company as well.

In June, four Cisco executives who led “spin-in” ventures that became important parts of the company have resigned. The Engineers Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain and Luca Cafiero, and marketer Soni Jiandani, nicknamed “MPLS” left the company because of “a disconnect regarding roles, responsibilities and charter” after a new Cisco business unit was announced, according to an internal memo posted by CEO Chuck Robbins and reported by IDG News Service.

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