Cisco’s legendary MPLS team – Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero, and Soni Jiandani – have been behind many of the company’s key innovations.
Here, Prem and Soni discuss their newest venture, Pensando Systems.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to Pensando. Prem, your team has a big reputation from Cisco and all the different Cisco spin outs, spin ups, and spin back ins that you’ve done. If you could summarize a little bit of where you’re coming from and how you innovate to bridge us to Pensando, that would be great.
Prem Jain: Mario, myself, Luca, and Soni are known as MPLS. We’ve been working together since 1993 with Soni. Mario, Luca, and myself have been working together since 1983. We know each other very well. We sold our first company to Cisco.
We always look for market transitions. There was a market transition at that time from hubbing to switching. We made a very successful transition. It became a $15 billion revenue business for Cisco. It got extended to data centers and other areas. We always look for transitions.
Our team is looking at what is really needed for that transition. The transition takes a longer period of time. Then other people catch up. Another important factor is building a very strong team. In Crescendo, we had a really small team, but we did fantastic with that small team.
Before we start anything, we always go to customers and get their feedback. What challenges are they facing? What problems do they have? They may not understand the technologies that we are bringing in. Once we take those problems and then come back, we give them our solution and ask for their feedback.
We don’t do it just for the heck of technology. We just don’t do it because there’s a big wave going into these technologies. They are there to solve customers’ problems. Most importantly, they’re in the right timeframe.
In an earlier experience, we were way ahead of the technology that was needed in the market to combine voice and video data to a single solution. We found out the hard way that the timing was not right.
The second problem was, we had to sell it to three buyers. We learned from that and said, “Understanding the market and the customer problem is much more essential than doing that.” We became part of Cisco and then we started making the transition.
We started another company called Andiamo, which was a spin-in. Mario, Luca, myself, and Soni became part of Cisco and Andiamo was running independently. Mario took the responsibility as the CDO of Cisco. Then we started looking for the transitions. What are the other things that are happening?