(On page 462 of The Upstart Startup, there is a photo of John and Jayshree in Petaluma, California during happier times.)
Jayshree, a well-liked former executive, is one of many Cisco alumni that could not remain working at the Internet equipment manufacturer. At Cisco, Jayshree was one of the company’s leaders who nurtured Cerent’s talent and drove the optical program in the early 2000s. She then took on the role as senior vice-president of the data center portfolio until 2008, when she left Cisco to shepherd Arista Networks, a cloud-based innovator, where Andy Bechtolsheim joined her as co-founder of the company.
Cisco targeted Arista with its formal complaint, likely owing to Arista’s fast growth in a multi-billion dollar market segment that Cisco has been slow to address. Usually Cisco responds to market transitions by acquiring startups, not by suing them. The company did just that in 1999 with its Cerent acquisition to address the optical market it was missing out on.
Arista Networks was not acquired by Cisco to aid in the shift to software-defined networking (cloud networking). Instead, Arista decided to go public and then the company received formal complaints from the Chambers’ camp rather than overtures for collaboration or acquisition.
Jayshree, in 2013, explained the duality of Cisco’s DNA to me, “Mainstream Cisco, you have to understand, didn’t have to deal with the diversity of competition the way Cerent or Crescendo did. Neither [startup] company had to worry about low, transport-like gross margins and their total available markets were huge. As a leader you enjoy a growing market, there is a natural momentum and scale that goes with it. So, I don’t think Cerent and Crescendo were similar to mainstream Cisco, but I think mainstream Cisco had to adapt to these startup acquisitions.”
It seems that mainstream Cisco has been unable to adapt to the rise of “the cloud.” Instead they’ve sunk to tactics employed by schoolyard bullies – let’s beat the little guy up. Maybe Jayshree has it right when she said in the December 6, 2014 Wall Street Journal article, “I am disappointed at Cisco’s tactics. It’s not the Cisco I knew.”