Cisco's space cowboys

  @FortuneMagazine December 5, 2013: 6:56 AM ET
TAW23 cisco founders

From left: Jiandani, Mazzola, Cafiero, and Jain


A few years ago Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers realized that he needed to prepare a counterattack to the growing threat of software-defined networking, a new kind of technology that allowed companies to control networks using software, rather than the high-end routers and switches that Cisco built its name on.

With billions of dollars in company coffers, Chambers could have acquired a startup to get in the game. He also could have asked some of the thousands of engineers employed by his company to tackle the project. Instead, he elected to persuade several semiretired Cisco executives to leave their lives of leisure and take on, as the archetypal plot of so many action films suggests, one last job.

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