Former Cisco Dream Team Forms Pensando Systems to Take on Amazon

In 2016, Cisco suffered a massive brain drain, with four of its superstar engineers publicly quit. CEO Chuck Robbins’ decision to reorganize the company led Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero, Soni Jiandani to seek greener pastures.

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Now, with $245 million in funding (including a recent $145 million Series C led by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lightspeed Venture Partners), the quintet has come out of hiding to formally announce Pensando Systems. The edge computing company is led by Jain as CEO and former Cisco CEO (and current JC 2 Ventures CEO) John Chambers, who chairs the board of directors.

Mazzola, Jain, Cafiero, and Jiandani (informally known as MPLS—the combination of their first initials) were a powerhouse team at Cisco and their startup was the company’s first acquisition. After teaming up with Chambers during his tenure as CEO of the networking company, MPLS led Cisco into a variety of new markets, including storage, servers, and software-defined networking.

The Series C funding round sees HPE chief technology officer Mark Potter and Harry Eggers of Lightspeed joining the board. Their investment joins Equinix, Oracle, NetApp, and Goldman Sachs (which has also signed on as a Pensando client).

Pensando is targeting a post-money valuation of $645 million, and now that it’s out of the stealth phase, growth will ramp up quickly. Chief financial officer Randy Pond, also a Cisco alumna, says that the warchest will support end-to-end operations, engineering, and go-to market activities. She notes that both HPE and Equinix not only brought investment capital, but have signed on as customers.

"Today's rapidly transforming, hyper-connected world requires enterprises to operate with even greater flexibility and choices than ever before," Potter said. "HPE's expanding relationship with Pensando Systems stems from our shared understanding of enterprises and the cloud. We are proud to announce our investment and solution partnership with Pensando and will continue to drive solutions that anticipate our customers' needs together."

The company has its sights set on taking on Amazon Web Services, similar to how Android has served as a foil for iOS. It claims that customers using its Pensando Platform can expect five to nine times the productivity, performance, and scale of AWS. Additionally, the company has developed two distributed services cards (DSC) that reduce latency and work with both bare metal and virtual servers.

In its funding announcement, Pensando specifically called out Amazon, claiming it already has a technological advantage. "In less than 3 years we've assembled a best in class engineering team that are experts in building systems for the cloud, compute, networking, storage and security markets" Jain said. "As a customer and partner first company we are focused on accelerating all aspects of our business as we go to market with a great ecosystem and a breakthrough platform."