Former Cisco CEO John Chambers: ‘I Believe HPE Will Become A Top AI Leader’ – CRN

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‘Antonio is a competitor, turned business partner, and a friend who I trust with my life,’ said Chambers in a Linkedin post. ‘I believe HPE will become a top AI leader in the industry with Antonio at the helm.’


Former Cisco CEO John Chambers is giving the thumbs up to Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Antonio Neri’s bid to make HPE-Juniper Networks a force to be reckoned with in the AI era.

“Antonio is a competitor, turned business partner, and a friend who I trust with my life,” said Chambers in a Linkedin post on Tuesday. “I believe HPE will become a top AI leader in the industry with Antonio at the helm.”

Cisco was not available for immediate comment on the Chambers LinkedIn post.

A spokesperson for Chambers said Chambers was unavailable for comment.

Chambers’ comments came with him touting a story in the Sunday Times focused in part on Neri’s bid to disrupt the status quo in the networking market – which is dominated by Chambers former employer Cisco.

Neri told Wall Street analysts two weeks ago that that HPE’s $14 billion acquisition of Juniper Networks will create a new “networking innovator” with a comprehensive portfolio for customers and partners.

“Combining our complementary portfolios will supercharge HPE’s edge-to-cloud strategy, accelerating our entire portfolio with AI enabled innovation,” Neri said of the blockbuster Juniper deal was announced in January.

“It takes a lot of courage to disrupt,” said Chambers (pictured) in the LinkedIn post. “From my experience, it’s difficult for a company to stay on top of the market, and downhill trends are hard to correct. The exception to that rule has been Hewlett Packard Enterprise, under the leadership of Antonio Neri. I applaud Antonio’s dedication to building a clear, strategic vision – and dreaming big enough to execute on it. Antonio is a competitor, turned business partner, and a friend who I trust with my life.”

Neri’s friendship with Chambers as blossomed in the last several years with HPE in 2019 investing – along with Lightspeed Venture Partners- in a series C funding of Chambers backed 5G edge startup Pensando.

The Chambers blessing of Neri’s AI strategy couldn’t come at a worse time for his former company Cisco, which announced last month that it was cutting five percent of its workforce or about 4,250 employees as it works to realign its organization to focus on “key priority” areas.

Two days later, Cisco informed Executive Vice President and COO Maria Martinez, a six-year Cisco veteran, that her position had been “eliminated.”

On March 5, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said in a blog post that the company was making changes to its executive leadership team to “accelerate our innovation, drive greater simplicity, and double-down on our growth efforts.”

Neri told CRN last week that the HPE-Juniper combination to “establish a new modern architecture” with the HPE Slingshot interconnect fabric teamed with Juniper’s Mist AI offering will be a “strong alternative” to Cisco.

“As we converge that with HPE Slingshot and other technologies we can manage the entire edge to cloud architecture with an AI driven solution and underneath have our entire technology stack from silicon to infrastructure to operating the system to software to security and all the services,” said Neri. “That is why I am excited because the AI inflection point will require more (network) ports – not less ports. “

As for Cisco’s $28 billion acquisition of Splunk -which was announced last September and is expected to be finalized later this year, Neri told CRN: “They have decided to invest in Splunk but that is a totally different thing. They use AI for managing the SIEM (Security Information Event Management), but it does not help you with the deployment of infrastructure to manage these large environments.”

C.R. Howdyshell, CEO of Advizex, a Fulcrum IT Partners company and a top HPE partner, said the Chambers endorsement is a huge vote of confidence for the HPE AI strategy and vision.

“It’s great to see an endorsement of the HPE AI strategy from a fellow West Virginian,” said Howdyshell. “You couldn’t ask for a stronger endorsement of the HPE and Juniper AI and networking strategy. This is going to instill significant confidence for HPE and Juniper partners going toe to toe with Cisco.”

Advizex is investing heavily in the HPE-Juniper AI networking strategy, said Howdyshell, and is seeing a “significant uptick in engagement” in the sales trenches from HPE and Juniper sales reps.

The CEO for an HPE and Cisco partner, who did not want to be identified, said the Chambers endorsement is one more sign of just how rapidly the market is moving toward AI solutions.

“Everything is changing with AI,” said the CEO. “The largest companies are investing in data scientists and large language models. The stock market is driving the shift to AI and the business is changing at a very rapid clip. There are big changes coming with the AI revolution.”

Neri, for his part, thanked Chambers on Linkedin for the “kind words and continued friendship.

“The feeling is mutual,” he wrote. “With an unwavering commitment to our strategy, we are building the future at Hewlett Packard Enterprise- and I’m confident our continued bold moves will continue to benefit all of our stakeholders.”

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