Western Digital hires Cisco exec as new CEO

Western Digital has appointed David Goeckeler, the head of Cisco’s networking and security Business, as its new CEO.

Goeckeler starts on March 9 and outgoing CEO Steve Milligan stays on as an adviser until September to smooth the transition. Milligan announced his intention to retire in November last year.

Matthew Massengill, chairman of WD’s board, issued a quote: “David is a transformative leader with an exceptional track record of driving highly profitable, core businesses at scale while innovating successful business strategies that expanded into new markets and generated new revenue sources.” 

David Goeckeler.

He is “the right person to lead Western Digital in a world increasingly driven by applications and data.”

Wells Fargo analyst Aaron Rakers offered this thought to subscribers: “While we think this news is a bit surprising, we positively view the appointment of David Goeckeler as we believe his outsider perspective and broader system experience can bring value to Western Digital.”

Goeckeler is a 19-year Cisco veteran, responsible more than $34 billion of Cisco’s technology franchise and leading a global team of more than 25,000 engineers. 

He said in a prepared statement: “The industry is facing an exciting inflection point where customers of every size, vertical and geography are deploying business infrastructure that is software-driven, enabled by data and powered by the cloud. This megatrend has only just now reached an initial stage of adoption and will drive a massive wave of new opportunity.”

“In this IT landscape, the explosive growth of connected devices will continue fueling an ever-increasing demand for access to data. With large-scale hard disk drive and semiconductor memory franchises, Western Digital is strongly positioned to capitalize on this emerging opportunity and push the boundaries of both software and physical hardware innovation within an extremely important layer of the technology stack.”


Goeckeler’s experience will help WD as it pushes the idea of zoned systems – host software controlling disk and flash media at a granular level to extend working life and enhance performance.

However, the sideways step by Western Digital into data centre systems under Milligan’s leadership, looks dead and buried. This led to acquisitions of companies like Tegile and Amplidata and then the sale of the resulting data centre systems assets. IntelliFlash went to DDN and ActiveScale went to Quantum.

Steve Milligan

We doubt also that Goeckeler will repeat Milligan’s tactic of pushing the NAND fab partnership with Toshiba almost to breaking point when Toshiba was in a business survival, threatening financial crisis and wanting to sell its NAND fab business unit. That partnership, inherited when the Milligan-led WD bought Sandisk in October 2015, is now with Toshiba Memory Systems’ successor business, Kioxia. It must be seen as one of WD’s most prized assets.