Love it or hate it, Cisco is one of the industry's benchmark networking companies. The last two years has seen it battle hard to lose the "just a router company" image as it seeks out fields of gold in the telecommunications market.
But in its quest to gain recognition as an IP-centric integrated voice and data networking powerhouse, the company is only just beginning to feel the heat of battle against established rulers Nortel Networks and Lucent Technologies.
Gary Jackson, Cisco Australia's managing director of the past two and a half years, is moving to Singapore to become director of Cisco's Asia-Pacific service provider line of business.
It's a promotion that recog-nises Jackson's success in steering the Australia/New Zealand operation from what he concedes was "well below its numbers" before his arrival to annual growth above 40 per cent and overall growth above 250 per cent during the period.
It has also garnered status as one of the highest performing Cisco subsidiaries worldwide.
Interestingly, though, the move reflects just how seriously Cisco wants to tackle the regional service provider market.
Jackson is justifiably proud of his term as country manager, citing his financial success and the creation of a strong, loyal team as rewarding legacies.
But Jackson, and all of Cisco's leadership, are under no illusion about the difficult road ahead.
"If you look at where there are going to be the big wars, they will be fought in service provider land," Jackson told ARN.
"When you take on very large potential deals, there are many twists in the road and you have to cover a lot of bases, and I think we are still learning how to do some of that," he conceded.
Jackson's role as head of the service provider LOB will provide what he describes as strategic and tactical support to each of the region's individual country operations, and is the "interface back into corporate".
LOB, which sits alongside Cisco's regional enterprise and small-to-medium business units, is recognised within the company as one of the most strategic growth opportunities.
As a result, much of his efforts will be devoted to coordinating the attack against Lucent and Nortel Networks over telecommunications tenders around the Asia-Pacific region.
However, he will have to work hard to improve the company's fortunes in the telco market, given the recent disappointment over the Telstra Data Mode of Operations tender.
Aiming for the total contract with partner Alcatel, Cisco only managed to win the rights to test and implement voice over IP equipment.
"We are very disappointed with the DMO decision," he said. Jackson said the approval of multiple tenders, including Nortel and Lucent, will make it difficult to understand each vendor's boundaries. It was, however, a valuable lesson in pitching for big telco business.
"We have learned a lot from Telstra on many fronts," he said.
As Jackson plans to have his feet firmly on the ground by August 1, the start of Cisco's financial year, he is hoping to find an internal staffer to fill the country manager spot and make a "smooth transition".
When asked about possible goals for his successor, Jackson said it will remain an extremely competitive market across all segments, particularly in Cisco's enterprise "heartland".
He does not believe any changes will be necessary to Cisco's channel program, which has become one of the company's strongest growth areas.
"I think anyone who comes in here and has a look at the way things are working with the channel is not likely to turn it on its head," he said.
Jackson's move to Singapore will see him replace Bill Nuti, who recently accepted a promotion to become senior vice president for Cisco's entire European operations.
He will spend an "indefinite" period of time in Singapore, but indicated moving to the US is another possibility in the future.
"We'll see how it goes," he said.
Jackson joined Cisco Australia in January 1997 to replace Scott Ferguson. Prior to that, his resume includes time as MD of both Sybase and Microsoft.
But aside from the company credits, the networking industry also looks at Jackson as a controversial leader. His departure from Microsoft over a corporate golf sponsorship dispute saw him cop the label "nine holes", while his penchant for speaking his mind in the media continues to attract attention.
For example, in a press release issued after ARN Daily first broke the news of his departure last week, Jackson said of the move to Singapore, "I won't feel so height impaired!"