A senior Microsoft executive left for Cisco Systems earlier this week, setting off speculation about what the move signified.
Debra Chrapaty was Microsoft’s VP for Global Foundation Services, responsible for the company’s physical infrastructure, security, and global delivery operations. She would have been involved with data-center rollouts of Microsoft’s Azure, a cloud platform designed for intra-enterprise or Internet-delivered application services. She also would have been involved with the delivery of the online version of Microsoft Office.
It’s the connection to Office Web Apps that is particularly interesting about her move to Cisco, where she will become the senior vice president of Cisco’s collaboration software group (CSG). The group was previously run by Doug Dennerline, who left Cisco to become SalesForce.com’s executive vice president of sales for the Americas.
A few months back, Dennerline said Cisco might compete with Microsoft and Google in offering office applications, such as documents, spreadsheets, and presentation packages. He said Cisco was “thinking about it, but (is) not there today.”
What Cisco already has, of course, is WebEx, the web-based conferencing and collaboration service it bought for $3.2 billion in 2007. Cisco also competes against Microsoft and others in premise-based unified communications. It also is adding its telepresence to its collaborative portfolio.
Earlier this year, Cisco CEO John Chambers talked about “Cisco’s collaboration imperative,” terming it one of Cisco’s “market adjacencies.” Said Chambers:
“We believe that we are very well positioned in the industry from a vision, differentiated strategy, and execution perspective. We believe we are entering the next phase of the Internet as growth and productivity will center on collaboration enabled by networked Web 2.0 technologies. We are going to attempt to execute a strategy over the next decade that is similar to what we did in the early 90s and as we’ve said before, it powered our growth for the next decade.”
One could argue Cisco is on the brink of imperial overstretch, taking itself in too many ambitious directions at once. One could also argue that while Cisco has a sound collaboration strategy, and strong underlying products that show well against competitive offerings, it might be folly for Cisco to add online document, spreadsheet, and presentation packages to its roster. Are they something Cisco really needs? Is that it a battle it wants to fight?
Maybe the answers are yes, maybe they’re no. Nonetheless, Cisco plans to play a leading role in hosted collaboration, and it has a solid foundation on which to work.
Irrespective of why and how Chrapaty made her way to her new corporate home, Cisco attaches considerable strategic importance to the group that she’ll run.