Arik Hesseldahl

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Cisco Adds Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff to Board

Networking giant Cisco Systems just named Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff to its board of directors.

Benioff’s addition to Cisco’s board fits perfectly with the ongoing shake-up that CEO John Chambers has been undergoing during the last year or so. Once you get Chambers talking about the new strategy at Cisco, you only hear the word “cloud” about 200 times in five minutes.

Of course I’m exaggerating a bit, but the fact is that the cloud is what Benioff is all about. A former Oracle VP and acolyte of its CEO Larry Ellison, Benioff founded Salesforce a little more than a decade ago on the then-radical proposition that you didn’t have to install any software on your local computer to run a customer-relationship management (CRM) database.

Back then they called it software-as-a-service, or SaaS, but more often than not, the concept of running applications in this manner is interchangeably described as being “in the cloud.”

And the fact is that Cisco is emerging as an important player in cloud infrastructure, specifically its Unified Computing System, or UCS, which combines networking and servers in single, easy-to-buy product. Long known primarily for its networking chops, Cisco has emerged as the world’s No. 3 vendor of blade servers, according to the reckoning of market research firm IDC.

Also joining Cisco’s board is Kristina Johnson. She runs a clean-energy company called Enduring Hydro. She was Under Secretary of Energy in the Obama Administration, confirmed in May of 2009, and stepped down at the end of 2010. Before that, Johnson was the provost at The Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s the announcement:

Cisco Appoints Marc Benioff and Kristina Johnson to Board of Directors

SAN JOSE, CA–(Marketwire -08/02/12)- Cisco (CSCO) today announced the appointment of Marc Benioff, co-founder and CEO of salesforce.com, and Dr. Kristina M. Johnson, CEO of Enduring Hydro, LLC and former Under Secretary of Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, to its board of directors effective August 1, 2012.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Marc and Kristina to Cisco’s board of directors,” said John Chambers, Cisco chairman and CEO. “Marc has changed the face of technology through his bold ideas around cloud computing and the social enterprise. Kristina brings us an unmatched expertise in science and technology, which will help guide Cisco as we continue to innovate and transform our customers’ experiences.”

Benioff, 47, co-founded salesforce.com in February of 1999 and has served as chairman of the board of directors since its inception. He has served as CEO of salesforce.com, which was selected by Forbes as the World’s Most Innovative Company in 2011, since November of 2001. Prior to launching salesforce.com, Benioff, a 30-year veteran of the software industry, spent 13 years at Oracle.

Johnson, 55, currently serves as CEO of Enduring Hydro, LLC, a clean energy development and consulting company. In her previous role as under secretary of energy, she was responsible for managing a broad $10.5 billion energy and environment portfolio. Prior to this role, Johnson served as provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at The Johns Hopkins University and dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. She currently serves on the board of directors of Boston Scientific Corporation and The AES Corporation. Johnson is also an inventor and entrepreneur, holding more than 45 U.S. patents. Johnson has received the John Fritz Medal, widely considered the highest award given in the engineering profession.

With the appointment of Benioff and Johnson, Cisco’s board now consists of 14 members, including Carol A. Bartz, former CEO, Yahoo! Inc.; M. Michele Burns, former chairman and CEO, Mercer LLC; Michael D. Capellas, former CEO, VCE Company, LLC; Larry R. Carter, former SVP, Office of the Chairman and CEO, Cisco Systems, Inc.; John T. Chambers, chairman and CEO, Cisco Systems, Inc.; Brian L. Halla, former chairman and CEO, National Semiconductor Corporation; John L. Hennessy, Ph.D., president, Stanford University; Richard M. Kovacevich, retired chairman and CEO, Wells Fargo & Company; Roderick C. McGeary, chairman, Tegile Systems, Inc.; Arun Sarin, KBE, senior advisor, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and former CEO of Vodafone Group Plc; Steven M. West, founder and partner, Emerging Company Partners LLC; and Jerry Yang, co-founder and former chief Yahoo!, Yahoo! Inc.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald