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The 50 most powerful people in networking

Dec 22, 200323 mins

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

This former member of the U.S. squash team (a silver medal winner at several Maccabiah Games in Israel) now stands on the network industry podium, triumphant in the broadband market. Comcast added 1.7 million customers to its high-speed Internet offerings, finishing its 2003 fiscal year with about 5.3 million subscribers. His success is pushing RBOCs such as SBC to fight back.

23. Eric Rudder, senior vice president of servers and tools, Microsoft

Rudder continues his steady ascent at Microsoft, where today he controls the company’s server business and handles its relationship with the developer community – the audience expected to take up Microsoft’s .Net religion. The projects Rudder shepherds these days include Microsoft’s forthcoming Longhorn client operating system; along with Yukon, the next version of SQL Server; and Whidbey, the next version of Visual Studio.

24. Greg Papadopoulos, CTO, Sun

Orion. Kevlar. Mad Hatter. As fiduciary of Sun’s technology development, these are among the projects on Papadopoulos’ plate. Orion, detailed early this year, is Sun’s code name for its work on simplifying pricing schemes and release cycles. Kevlar is Sun’s forthcoming server partitioning software for Solaris machines, and Mad Hatter is its planned Linux-based desktop package. Also on tap is a new generation of UltraSparc blade servers with multicore technology that combines multiple processing units on a single silicon wafer.

25. Scott Griffin, CIO, Boeing

Boeing’s history as a user is consistently one of early adopter, teacher, shaper of technologies. Under Griffin’s direction, Boeing lately has been all over identity management and collaborative computing. In addition to being a technology visionary, Griffin is popular on the speaker circuit and has an eclectic personal history, including a stint as a firefighter. He’s also active in many Seattle-area charities and is an adviser to the University of Washington.

26. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, general manager, e-business on demand, IBM

When IBM in 2000 put $1 billion behind its then-fledgling Linux initiative, Wladawsky-Berger led the charge. Now the stakes are even higher: Wladawsky-Berger leads IBM’s e-business on-demand initiative, a $10 billion effort formally launched 14 months ago and aimed at building greater intelligence into IBM’s hardware and software resources. The 33-year IBM veteran is responsible for evangelizing technologies such as grid computing and virtualization, and championing the value of businesses that can respond with complete flexibility to changing market conditions.

27. Nora Denzel, senior vice president and general manager, Software Global Business Unit, and senior vice president, Adaptive Enterprise Program, HP

Under Denzel’s watch, HP’s fiscal 2003 software revenue grew 20% year over year to a new record, with OpenView up 17% and OpenCall up 36%. At the same time, Denzel has grown her software kingdom through acquisitions and has assumed formal responsibility for HP’s key Adaptive Enterprise Program.

28. Nicolas Carr, business writer and consultant

Carr grabbed the industry’s attention with his story “IT Doesn’t Matter,” published in the May edition of the Harvard Business Review, arguing that IT’s strategic value has diminished as its presence has grown. That story spawned myriad debates and propelled Carr to the A-list speakers’ circuit. The tidal wave of publicity the article generated might not be sustainable until his book on the same subject comes out in May, but Carr certainly made his mark in IT this year.

29. Darl McBride, president and CEO, The SCO Group

McBride gets credit for the power play of the year with his legal wrangling over Linux. This 42-year-old father of seven children spent the year pursuing his claim that bits of Linux were essentially stolen from SCO, which he has headed for two years. As that battle unfolded, McBride showed just how serious he is, pulling SCO out of the Linux market altogether.

30. Richard Stiennon, vice president of research, Gartner

Stiennon rocked the security world with his June report that said intrusion-detection systems (IDS) were “a market failure.” Rare is the analyst that will tell it like it is about an emerging market, one chock-full of potential new analyst-report customers. His stance powerfully influenced IDS makers – forcing them to address their failings now or risk sales. The “IDS is dead” report, as it is now widely known, was so influential that months after publication, in October, it prompted a roomful of prospective government IDS buyers to invite Stiennon to a face-off with a handful of IDS vendors.

31. Pradeep Sindhu, CTO and founder, Juniper

Sindhu handles technical architecture, design and development at Juniper, which remains a thorn in Cisco’s side. He is behind the company’s latest initiative, called the Infranet, which is aimed at solving performance and security problems inherent in the Internet. Juniper’s Infranet calls for the development of standard network interfaces that will let customers and service providers construct an “infranet” – a public network that combines the ubiquitous connectivity of the Internet with the predictable performance and security of a private network.

32. Kevin Martin, commissioner, FCC

Martin played a pivotal role in the FCC Triennial Review decision, which addressed the topic of whether and to what extent incumbent local exchange carriers need to make elements of their networks available on an unbundled basis to new entrants. His vote helped shoot down a federal rule that would have given competitors less-favorable terms for leasing lines and switching. And, the compromise Martin architected strikes a balance between providing regulatory relief for incumbents’ investments in advanced services and ensuring that local competitors will continue to have the access they need to provide services.

33. Patrick Gelsinger, senior vice president and CTO, Intel

Intel’s first corporate CTO, Gelsinger coordinates the company’s $4 billion research and development activities, including its Intel Labs and Intel Research efforts. The 24-year Intel veteran also is responsible for aligning the company’s initiatives with industry demand – for example, by focusing microprocessor development efforts not only on clock speed but also on qualities such as temperature and power consumption to appeal to mobile device manufacturers – and making sure Intel’s growing range of computing, networking and communications products are in sync with one another. So far, Gelsinger’s cooperative efforts seem to be paying off: The company recently reported third-quarter revenue of $7.83 billion, 20% above last year’s levels and beating analyst expectations.

34. Stratton Sclavos, chairman and CEO, VeriSign

Sclavos set off a firestorm in September when he launched VeriSign’s controversial Site Finder service, which sent Web surfers who entered a nonexistent URL to Site Finder, a page that offered Web links and paid advertisements. Sclavos’ decision drew a downpour of criticism and a couple of lawsuits claiming Site Finder was an abuse of VeriSign’s power over the main database of .com and .net domain names. Though heavy persuasion eventually led him to shut down the service, the exercise pointed out how determined Sclavos is to cash in on VeriSign’s position of power.

35. Bruce Perens, open source activist

Lots of folks these days have become SCO bashers, since that company shunned the open source community with its attempted legal coup over Linux. But Perens stands above as a highly visible open source activist, a founder of several Linux organizations and a treatise writer on open source and on the waywardness of SCO’s claims. Perens even gave up copyrights on a book series he edited on Linux technologies as did the publisher, Prentiss Hall.

36. Gary Bloom, chairman, president and CEO, Veritas Software

Bloom has led Veritas through its transformation from storage back-up and recovery specialist to overall systems management provider. Two recent acquisitions – Jareva Technologies for $62 million and Precise Software Solutions for $609 million – added server provisioning and application performance management capabilities, respectively, to the Veritas portfolio. Bloom is leading Veritas to the utility computing arena, where he’ll face the big thinkers at IBM and HP also looking to manage storage and software resources automatically and across heterogeneous platforms.

37. Shai Agassi, executive board member, SAP

Agassi is SAP’s wunderkind, leading the business applications maker on a quest to become an infrastructure platform provider. His vehicle is NetWeaver – application server and integration middleware upon which all SAP applications eventually will run. 

38. Tim Donahue, president and CEO, Nextel

What immense satisfaction this former AT&T Wireless executive must feel watching all other national wireless carriers chase after Nextel in pursuit of competitive walkie-talkie cell phone service. Nextel has had a 12-year lock on push-to-talk cell phone service, a copycat version of which Verizon finally was able to launch in August. Meanwhile, AT&T is only now working on a competing version. Still, Donahue keeps working hard to stay ahead of the competition, promising satellite-based, global “direct-connect” capabilities, for example. His efforts get a river of ink in the business press, as do the record subscriber increases Nextel reports quarterly.

39. Michael Capellas, chairman and CEO, MCI

Capellas earns kudos for shepherding MCI out of its bankruptcy, and now is working frantically to rebuild customer and industry trust. He’s recruited new board members with impeccable reputations, including a former U.S. attorney general, a former top member of the Department of Justice and a former head of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Plus, he’s named respected ethics expert Nancy Higgins as chief ethics officer. This avid rock-and-roll lover is ready to make music at MCI.

40. Mike Bennett, senior network engineer, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy

Vendors listen to Bennett, who often is among the earliest of early adopters in his efforts to keep the high-powered LAN of research facility Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory up to snuff. One of his latest interests is 10G Ethernet, including how to use the technology over copper to link switches and routers in the lab’s data centers. He’s keeping tabs on IEEE standards work to create a copper version of the 10G Ethernet 802.3ae standard.

41. Amnon Landan, president and CEO, Mercury Interactive

Mercury’s revenue is up 36% annually since 1997, the year Landan became CEO. With $355 million in the bag for the first nine months of 2003, the company is on track to break the $500 million revenue mark. Fueling growth is Landan’s strategy to broaden the company’s core software testing and tuning product line, expand its products to manage applications, and better compete with management stalwarts BMC Software, Computer Associates, HP and IBM. So far, Mercury’s business momentum is strong: Last month, the company topped Goldman Sach’s list of software companies that are gaining share of users’ IT spending dollars.

42. Peggy Weigle, CEO, Sanctum

In a world where the Internet has become critical business tool No. 1, Web application security is at the top of everyone’s minds. Weigle, in her first CEO post, has created a top contender in the young-but-blossoming Web application firewall market. Weigle showed her power when assembling an advisory board to guide the company in product development, signing on numerous well-known industry figures. A renaissance-type of technologist, she holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy (cum laude) from the University of Massachusetts.

43. Russ Cooper, founder and moderator of NTBugtraq mailing list; surgeon general at TruSecure

Cooper has earned widespread respect for keeping politics out of the vulnerabilities update business. 

44. Brad Noblet, director of computing technical services, Dartmouth College

As a network executive at a college, Noblet has to contend with students’ changing computing preferences. Increasingly, that means wireless. About 90% of Dartmouth’s freshmen arrived on campus this year with wireless-enabled laptops. This puts Noblet among the trailblazers rolling out large-scale wireless LANs – and dealing with the security, management, coverage and scalability issues that go along with a campus WLAN. Noblet also is responsible for Dartmouth’s data, telephone and cable TV networks, central machine room operations and software development.

45. Dennis Eaton, chairman, Wi-Fi Alliance Board

As chairman of the Wi-Fi Alliance, Eaton shares his longtime passion for wireless technology to make sure enterprise users can get secure, interoperable products. 

46. Diane Greene, president and CEO, VMware

EMC’s mid-December acquisition of VMware stands as testament to the vendor’s lead position in making server virtualization software. Greene, VMware’s founding chief, will continue guiding the company’s efforts when it becomes an EMC software subsidiary in the first-quarter 2004. VMware counts 5,000 corporate customers worldwide – 80% of the Fortune 100. No newbie, Greene has been in the tech industry for 20 years, learning the ropes at Silicon Graphics, Tandem and Sybase, and serving as CEO of a company she co-founded – streaming software maker Vxtreme (purchased by Microsoft in 1997).

47. Hugo Haas, Web services activity lead, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

Standards progress is a key factor in corporate adoption of Web services technology, and Haas is committed to the cause. As the leader of the W3C’s Web services activity area, he oversees four working groups: the Web services architecture working group, which is responsible for identifying requisite Web services technologies and explaining how they fit together; XML protocol working group, which is developing an XML-based messaging framework; Web services description working group, which is designing a language for describing interfaces to Web services; and Web services choreography working group, which is designing a language to compose and describe the relationships between Web services.

48. Henning Schulzrinne, associate professor, Columbia University

If the network industry were a building, Schulzrinne would be considered one of its master masons. Through years of leadership roles at the IEEE and, more recently, the Internet Engineering Task Force, Schulzrinne has crafted or influenced many protocols. He is lately known for his work on Session Initiation Protocol, such as examining the interworking of SIP and H.323. Schulzrinne has an incredibly long list of achievements to his name: awards, patents, fellowships and technical committee chair roles. He has published countless papers covering dozens of protocols and technologies, and currently shares his wisdom with computer science and electrical engineering students at Columbia University.

49. Scott Hazen Mueller, chairman of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE) and operator of

By day, Mueller is a senior systems administrator for California State University. By night, as CAUCE chair, he is one of the superheroes of the anti-spam movement. CAUCE, which claims 30,000 members, lobbies Congress (and state congresses) on behalf of the folks on the receiving end of spam. It does so via analysis and position papers on pending legislation, letters to elected officials, coordination with other anti-spam groups and, at times, asked-for advice – such as participation in the Federal Trade Commission’s three-day anti-spam workshop held in April.

50. Harry Weller, partner, New Enterprise Associates

An up-and-comer at the network industry’s most powerful venture capitalist firm, Weller landed a seat on the board of telecom industry shaker Vonage. This when NEA orchestrated a $35 million investment, including $12 million in NEA funds, in the voice-over-IP carrier. Weller also sits on the board of SourceFire, a security monitoring software start-up. This is Weller’s second stint as a venture capital partner. In his prior gig at FBR Technology Venture Partners, he took part in funding other enterprise technologies, from handheld software to WebMethods, which went on to become a model for Internet boom IPOs.