Despite its recent ‘Cloud Connect’ fiasco, there’s no doubt that Cisco firmly believes cloud is the future of networking. Whether it’s the company’s $5-billion acquisition of London-based NDS or its recent investment in SDN (Software Defined Marketing) startup Insieme, cloud computing will play a key role in how customers and vendors use and manage Cisco’s networking products and services in the years to come.
Analysts believe VMware’s recent acquisition of SDN startup Nicira would pressurize Cisco to get its act together, quickly. And really, when it comes to cloud, Cisco couldn’t have found a better (and bigger) man than the outspoken and ruthless CEO of Salesforce – Marc Benioff.
While some are hailing the decision to add Benioff to the Cisco board as a “brilliant decision” for several reasons, others view it as another move from CEO John Chambers to flex his muscles in front of the Cisco board. Whatever be the case, the prospects of a Cisco-Salesforce alliance are fascinating to say the least.
In addition to Benioff, Kristina Johnson, CEO of Enduring Hydro, a green energy company, and former under secretary of energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, has also joined the Cisco board. But why Benioff? For a start, it’s a fitting reply to VMware and Nicira that Cisco has plenty of ammunition in the cloud segment. Secondly, Salesforce is a classic been there, done that success story in the cloud computing industry and Cisco is actively building solutions on the cloud so it’s a good match.
Benioff is widely regarded as a no non-sense guy with aggressive intent and a phenomenal knowledge of the social enterprise business. Formerly an Oracle executive, he has grown Salesforce.com into an $18 billion company with more than 6,000 employees and 90,000 customers, one of the most widely recognized success stories in the cloud industry.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome Marc and Kristina to Cisco’s board of directors,” said Chambers, in a statement. “Marc has changed the face of technology through his bold ideas around cloud computing and the social enterprise. Kristina brings us an unmatched expertise in science and technology, which will help guide Cisco as we continue to innovate and transform our customers’ experiences.”
IMO, it’s a win-win move for both companies. Cisco gets to work with the best of the breed cloud player while Salesforce.com can tap the network-centric paradigm shifts in computing. The two companies first partnered in 2009 to deliver a complete contact center in the cloud called ‘Customer Interaction Cloud’.
The Cisco board now has 14 members.