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Cisco veteran Volpi to step down

Mike Volpi, once seen as a possible successor to the CEO, steps down from company's service provider business.

After a blowout quarter for Cisco Systems, a key player in its service provider business unit is stepping down. The company is expected to make the announcement Thursday.

Mike Volpi (PDF), senior vice president and general manager of the Routing and Service Provider Technology Group, said he is leaving the company after 13 years there to pursue other opportunities. Volpi didn't specify what those other opportunities might be, but he said he had no intention of working for a Cisco competitor.

He also emphasized that the decision is a personal one made entirely on his own and was not tied to anything happening at the company. Volpi said his resignation would take effect immediately, but he said he will continue to consult with Cisco to ensure a smooth transition.

"Cisco offers a lot of good things," Volpi said. "But at some point, I would love to create something with a little bit of my own DNA and signature on it. I never saw myself as someone to stay at a company my whole life. So it's time to leave home and try something new."

Volpi's boss, Chief Development Officer Charles Giancarlo, publicly thanked Volpi for his work and said the executive would be missed. He also acknowledged that Volpi is leaving the company just as Cisco is making significant headway with service provider customers.

Executives said on Tuesday that Cisco's profits jumped 40 percent and that revenue was up 27 percent for the company's second fiscal quarter, which ended January 27, compared with the same period a year ago. Much of the growth can be attributed to strong sales to cable operators and phone companies.

Mike Volpi

"Mike has been here 13 years and has been a strategic leader," Giancarlo said. "He is leaving on a high note, when the service provider market is strong and growing for Cisco."

Volpi's group has been responsible for developing and selling the next-generation Internet Protocol router, the CRS-1, which has helped many service providers scale their networks for growth. His group also absorbed products and employees from the $6.9 billion acquisition of Scientific-Atlanta--now called Scientific Atlanta--which was completed in February 2006.

Prior to leading the service provider organization, Volpi led Cisco's acquisition strategy. Between 1994 and 2001, he oversaw 75 acquisitions.

Volpi had at one time been seen as a potential successor to CEO John Chambers. His departure could help solidify Giancarlo's position as heir to the CEO seat, should Chambers step down in the next few years.

Tony Bates (PDF) and Pankaj Patel (PDF), who have each reported to Volpi for years in the Routing and Service Provider Technology Group, are set to take over many of his responsibilities.

As part of the transition, the group has been renamed the Service Provider Technology Group, Cisco said. Mobile and service provider voice products will now be folded into that group. And the Scientific Atlanta and cable access technology group leaders will report directly to Giancarlo, the company said.

Some of these changes had been planned independently of Volpi's departure, Giancarlo said. He also emphasized that he expects the transition to go smoothly, without affecting Cisco's financials.

"We've done this before, where Cisco has turned over management," he said. "And we haven't skipped a beat. Cisco has excelled at keeping a deep bench that can fill the next generation of leadership for the company."