Cisco Moves to Speed Data Center Advances

Networking equipment giant buys start-up in bid to accelerate next-generation product development for data center.
Cisco Systems announced Thursday it has made a $50 million investment and purchase of startup Nuova Systems, with the option to invest as much as $42 million more.

Headed by former Cisco executive Mario Mazzola, Nuova Systems will become a Cisco subsidiary, owned 80 percent by Cisco and 20 percent by Nuova Systems employees.

The new subsidiary will continue to operate from its headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., not far from Cisco's home base San Jose.

Cisco isn't giving out many specifics of what Nuova is or what it will be working on, other than to say it's designed to accelerate its next-generation product development for the data center.

The company did say Nuova's efforts will complement Cisco's current data center portfolio, including its flagship LAN switching platform, the Catalyst 6500, as well as the MDS line of storage switches, SFS server networking switches and application networking solutions for accelerating applications within the data center and to the rest of the enterprise.

Formed last summer, secretive Nuova has 76 employees, including Mazzola, Cisco's former chief development officer, and three other former Cisco executives, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero, and Soni Jiandani. All are expected to return to the Cisco fold, working for the new subsidiary, if the transaction goes through as anticipated.

A unique aspect of the deal is Cisco's 80 percent ownership stake. Cisco has an option to purchase the remaining twenty percent. Should it occur, the transaction would happen in late 2007 or early 2008.

Meanwhile, the deal is laden with incentives for Nuova. To the extent Cisco is successful in selling Nuova products, the deal calls for a potential minimum payout of $10 million and a maximum of $578 million to Nuova.

However, Cisco is not under any obligation to buy the remaining 20 percent, Cisco spokesman John Noh told

As chief development officer, Mazzola was a key executive at the company. He first joined Cisco in 1993 when it acquired Crescendo Communications, the startup he co-founded a few years earlier.

The Crescendo technology was key to the development of one of Cisco's most successful product lines, the Catalyst local-area-network (LAN) switch.

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