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Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff Joins Cisco Board
Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff Joins Cisco Board

By Jennifer LeClaire
August 2, 2012 11:59AM

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"Typically you put CEOs from partner companies or CEOs you respect on your board to give you a stronger partnership or more specific insight into their thinking, particularly in areas where you do not compete," said analyst Rob Enderle of the appointment of Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff (pictured) to Cisco's board of directors.
 



With Cisco moving to beef up its server business, the company is building on partnerships in the social enterprise. With that in mind, Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff has joined Cisco's board of directors.

Benioff founded Salesforce.com in 1999, with a vision to create an on-demand information management service that would replace traditional enterprise software technology. Today, he's widely recognized as one of the top leaders in the computer business.

During Benioff's watch, the company has grown from a single concept into a publicly traded company that has revolutionized the industry. Benioff is lauded for pioneering innovation, including the original "no software" concept that has evolved into the whole category of "software as a service" (SaaS).

Prior to launching Salesforce.com, Benioff, now 47 and a 30-year veteran of the software industry, spent 13 years at Oracle Corporation from 1986-1999. With an early start while still in high school, Benioff reportedly founded Liberty Software, creating and selling games for the Atari and other microcomputer systems. By age 23, he had already spent time working at Apple and been recognized as Oracle's Rookie of the Year.

Bringing in Bold Ideas

"Marc has changed the face of technology through his bold ideas around cloud computing and the social enterprise," Cisco CEO John Chambers said in a statement.

Cisco has also added Kristina Johnson, CEO of Enduring Hydro, to its board, for her expertise in science and technology.

The new board appointees, which bring Cisco's director count to 14, come in the wake of some exposed chinks in the company's armor. Cisco stock has taken double-digit dips this year as orders from large corporate consumers and governments declined. Cisco's fourth-quarter profit forecast is also below analyst predictions.

A Mover and Shaker

"Typically you put CEOs from partner companies or CEOs you respect on your board to give you a stronger partnership or more specific insight into their thinking, particularly in areas where you do not compete," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "Clearly, Salesforce.com and Cisco do not compete and they have a strong partnership."

Cisco's move to bring Benioff to its board shows that the networking giant wants to bring a mover and shaker on board to get fresh ideas in the area of cloud computing, Enderle said. Having Benioff on the board also strengthens the partnership between the companies.

"Cisco really needs an edge to move deeper into the server space against the big entrenched vendors like HP and IBM," Enderle told us. "They've been working on that edge both in their partnerships with EMC to gain scale and also through special relationships with SAP and Salesforce. So it looks like they are pulling out all the stops to really make sure that their server platform is well positioned."

A Six-Year History

Salesforce.com and Cisco partnered in 2009 to deliver a complete contact center in the cloud. The combined solution, dubbed Customer Interaction Cloud, brings together Salesforce.com's Service Cloud 2 with Cisco Unified Communications.

Salesforce.com and Cisco also partnered in 2006 to make the Cisco Unified CallManager Express Connector available for Salesforce.com's AppExchange. CallManager Express is the call-processing component of the Cisco Unified Communications system for small- and medium-size businesses.
 

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