Cisco's Wellman goes out on top

In the end, it was the travel that prompted Selby Wellman to decide to leave Cisco Systems on Tuesday.

"I have reached a point in my life where I really, really don't want to live on airplanes anymore," Wellman says. "I've been doing it for 30 years now."

The other reason was that Cisco has locked up the SNA-to-IP migration market, so much so that Cisco transformed its Research Triangle Park, N.C., facility from headquarters for its IBM Interworks business unit to a test bed for service provider products and strategies.

It was time for Wellman to take the "John Elway Exit," as he says.

"When you make that decision that you want to change your life and spend more time with your family and other things, the best time to make it is when you're on top," Wellman says.

That he is. Under Wellman's leadership, Cisco's Interworks business unit outmaneuvered IBM to become the leading vendor of products that connect IBM SNA networks to IP networks, including the Internet. Cisco says it holds an 80 percent market share, which has fully matured from an infrastructure standpoint, Wellman says.

Cisco is so successful in this market that IBM subsequently sold its switching and routing assets to Cisco and entered into an agreement with the company to service Cisco accounts. Cisco, meanwhile, agreed to buy parts and components from IBM for five years in the $US2 billion deal.

So for all intents and purposes, the SNA-to-IP migration game is over. That's why earlier this year, Wellman - who was also site executive for Cisco's Real-time Transport Protocol facility - quietly disbanded the Interworks business unit and reassigned RTP engineers and marketing staff to mobile wireless, high-end router Application Specific Integrated Circuit development, and other enterprise and service provider projects.

The Interworks business unit has been subsumed into Cisco's Enterprise line of business and is now in "sustained maintenance" mode. That means staffers are working on updates and incremental enhancements to installed products, not developing or investing heavily in major new product releases.

Cisco also credits Wellman with attracting 2,500 employees to Cisco's RTP site from its groundbreaking in 1995.

Cisco CEO John Chambers offered Wellman the opportunity to head another multiyear project at Cisco, but Wellman declined.

Wellman says he'll now join an investment firm and advise them on technology investments. He would not name the firm but says he's in negotiations and hopes to join the company in September.

Wellman will be replaced as RTP site executive by Ed Carney, Cisco's vice president of engineering for its Networked Solutions Integration Test Engineering (NSITE) laboratory. The NSITE lab supports research and development in Cisco's Service Provider line of business.

Carney's new role will include continuing to grow RTP to 4,000 employees by 2002.

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