The difference with the new company, Pensando, is that founders Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero, and Soni Jiandani don’t have formal ties to Cisco, as they did with previous startups Andiamo, Nuova, and Insieme.
Those companies were spin-ins, startups that technically were not part of Cisco but which kept close with the mother ship on the understanding that they could eventually be acquired back in — as happened all three times. Andiamo, Nuova, and Insieme were funded by Cisco, then eventually acquired in deals with a total value of about $2.3 billion.
The spin-in arrangements drew some complaints, because it essentially rewarded employees who left the company. Among the critics of the process was Jayshree Ullal, a former Cisco executive who is now CEO of Arista.
The four founders, sometimes collectively called “MPLS,” originally came to Cisco through the 1993 acquisition of Crescendo and had tight relationships with former Cisco CEO John Chambers. After Chuck Robbins became CEO in 2015, he indicated that he might not continue the spin-in cycle.
About 10 months after Robbins took the CEO position, the MPLS team left the company.
It is not hard to guess what Pensando might be up to, because all three previous spin-ins targeted storage networking. In fact, The Information cites a source saying the Santa Clara, California-based startup is developing a storage networking chip.
You might think Insieme is the exception. It eventually became the source for the Application-Centric Infrastructure and Cisco’s software-defined networking (SDN) strategy, but industry sources have said that even that startup began life as a storage play.