Switchless network supplier Rockport switches CEOs

Co-founder Doug Carwardine has left the CEO spot at Rockport Networks, along with co-CEO Marc Sultzbaugh, with new hire Phil Harris drafted in from Intel’s datacenter group, and given a growth remit.

Update: Rockport statement added – 23 June 2022.

Rockport has developed a switchless and flat network for interconnecting servers, storage and clients, with each endpoint effectively being its own switch. It announced product availability in October last year when it came out of stealth mode operations.

In December that year it gained $8 million in funding, led by Northern Private Capital, and a co-CEO structure with board member Sulztbaugh joining Carwardine in the CEO office.

Andrew Lapham, co-founder and CEO, Northern Private Capital, issued the announcement quote: “With his industry experience, strategic vision, and commercial success, Phil is ideally suited to lead Rockport as the company enters its next stage of growth. Disruptive technologies demand passionate leadership making his energy, creativity and focus a perfect match. On behalf of the entire investment group, we thank both Doug Carwardine and Marc Sultzbaugh for their past leadership guiding the company to its current level.”

Phil Harris

Phil Harris’ CV shows that he was most recently a VP and GM for Intel’s Data Center Systems and Solutions Group Including full P&L responsibility, getting that role in May 2018 and leaving it in February this year. Sandra Rivera is now the EVP and GM of Intel’s Datacenter and AI Group.

Before Intel, Harris was in VP and SVP roles at at Riverbed, BMC Software, and Cisco, with stints at VCE and Cisco again before that. His Cisco time speaks to a networking skillset and the Intel datacenter experience is perfectly relevant to Rockport’s datacenter market ambitions.

A Harris quote said: “We’re entering a new age of high-performance networking where the industrialization of HPC, the shifting sands of AI and demands of composable infrastructure are changing the way we approach our greatest compute, storage, and environmental challenges. Our approach to tackling the fabric of the future is a complete gamechanger.”

The relationship between Rockport’s switchless fabric and the developing east-west traffic focused DPUs and SmartNICs will be an interesting area to watch, not least because Harris will have a good knowledge of Intel’s IPU product in that space. From the composability point of view Rockport may need to play nice with PCIe-based technologies (heading towards CXL) from suppliers such as Liqid.

It looks as if the co-CEO structure was a temporary thing set up while Rockport’s board looked for a single, permanent CEO. Presumably Carwardine will revert to a full-time R&D role which was a part-time responsibility when he was co-CEO.

A Rockport spokesperson said: “As with all startups, for every season there’s a CEO. At this next stage of growth and commercialization, Phil’s deep data center experience was a great match. When the opportunity presents itself, an organization must be open to change. … we took advantage of the moment. Both Doug and Marc fully supported this decision and have worked closely with Phil during the transition.”