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EMC sidelines Data Domain boss

15-year vet takes over

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Update In a startling turn of events, EMC has apparently sidelined Data Domain boss Frank Slootman, who has led EMC's Backup and Recovery Systems (BRS) division since EMC acquired Data Domain, the leading deduplication systems vendor, in 2009.

It's not a spoof announcement. Fifteen-year EMC staffer William "BJ" Jenkins replaces Slootman as BRS president, with Slootman staying on in what's called a "formal advisory capacity" in which he will "help guide EMC's next-generation backup and recovery initiatives." In other words, he has no operational responsibility.

The announcement was made by Pat Gelsinger, EMC Information Infrastructure Products business president and chief operating officer. Both Jenkins and Slootman will report to him. Jenkins most recently served as BRS Chief of Staff and led the post-merger integration of Data Domain as the foundation for the then newly formed division.

"We are extremely fortunate to have a leader of BJ's caliber, industry track record and technology vision to lead EMC's fast-growing Backup Recovery Systems business," Gelsinger said about his new BRS president.

EMC's statement laid out Jenkins' mission: "Central to this mission is the continued pursuit of innovation and helping EMC and its partners bring to market backup and recovery solutions that address customers' top priorities as the rapid growth of information and "big data" accelerate and organizations shift to cloud computing architectures."

Was Slootman seen as an inappropriate front man for this role? Did he resign or was he pushed? He's not going anywhere, not pursuing other challenges as so many other ousted executives do, so what is he about now? Is EMC looking for a role he could fill?

EMC chairman and CEO JOe Tucci was both laudatory and opaque in his canned comment: "We are grateful to Frank for his extraordinary leadership. The success of Data Domain in the marketplace and the performance of the business as part of EMC have been nothing short of remarkable. We look forward to having Frank continue to provide his time and advice as we continue to advance the business."

That almost sounds like a board director's position being described, but Slootman isn't joining EMC's board. It's hard not to view this as a case of: "Thanks Frank. Great job but now EMC will take over. Stick around, do, and give us the odd bit of advice while you look for another position."

UPDATE In fact that might not be the case as it has just emerged that Slootman has joined Greylock Partners where he will: "invest in data center infrastructure start-ups, particularly in the virtualization, networking, storage, cloud and enterprise application sectors. He will also coach and mentor up-and-coming entrepreneurs and executives."

Aneel Bhusri, a partner at Greylock, said: “Frank is one of very few people in the technology industry today who knows what it takes to take a tiny start-up and turn it into a world-class business.” Coincidentally Bhusri was one of the early stage investors in Data Domain and its chairman at the time of its acquisition by EMC. He is also co-founder and co-chief executive at Workday and leads Greylock’s investments in Cloudera, Data Robotics, Proferi and Pure Storage. ®

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