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Optical guru leaves Cisco

A key contributor to the networking giant's part in the once-booming optical networking market, Carl Russo, vice president of optical strategy, is leaving.

A prominent Cisco Systems executive is leaving the company.

Carl Russo, vice president of optical strategy in Cisco's Optical Networking Group, spent more than two years at Cisco after the networking giant acquired his start-up optical networking company, Cerent, for $7 billion in 1999 during the telecommunications boom. He was viewed as a key contributor as the company entered the once-booming optical networking market.

Russo's departure is effective as of Friday, according to a Cisco representative.

Russo, 45, was one of the primary symbols of a telecommunications boom in which companies such as Cisco paid exorbitant sums for start-up operations with little signs of revenue like Cerent. The resulting ONS products from the Cerent acquisition are arguably the most successful optical systems Cisco has sold since acquiring several companies to compete in the optical telecommunications market.

Other products, such as those acquired in 1999 for $500 million from Monterey Networks, have been axed as part of a precipitous downturn in spending on telecommunications equipment.

"Carl Russo has been instrumental in Cisco's optical strategy and building the foundation for our continued momentum," a Cisco representative said. "We appreciate his contributions and wish him well as he pursues his personal interests."

Cisco said that Russo did not plan to immediately join another company.

Cisco's Optical Networking Group has seen a decline in demand for its systems, as network operators have cut back expenses or otherwise fallen on hard financial times.

Russo's position will go unfilled, with Jayshree Ullal, vice president of the Optical Network Group, taking over much of his responsibilities, according to a representative.

As part of a company reorganization in August of last year, Ullal--a veteran Cisco executive--took over responsibility of the Optical Networking Group. Russo served under Ullal.