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End of an era: NetApp chair Dan Warmenhoven has left the building

CEO becomes chairman after ex-CEO retires

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+Analysis NetApp chairman and previous CEO Dan Warmenhoven has announced that he plans to retire in September. His chosen successor as CEO, Tom Georgens, becomes the new chairman.

Georgens will be taking on the chairman’s duties at once. Here’s part of his canned announcement quote: “Dan's extensive experience has been instrumental to our ongoing efforts to deliver enhanced value to our shareholders. His leadership, commitment and guidance will be missed and I wish him well in his future endeavours."

Here's a taste of Warmenhoven’s: "I have greatly appreciated and enjoyed my time leading this board for NetApp. During the past 20 years with NetApp, I am always amazed at the drive and dedication of this organisation to continue to build a model company and deliver innovative outcomes to partners.”

Dan W was NetApp CEO from 1994 to 2009 when he rose to the chairmanship, passing on the CEO slot to Georgens.

Lead independent director Nicholas Moore, aged 71, will also be going. The immediate replacement for him is Michael Nevens, current chairman of the Strategy Committee. That leaves a board vacancy.

+Analysis

Is there any more to this than standard retirements and handovers? NetApp has announced some 600 layoffs and its revenues are flattish, and have been for about three years, the time Georgens has been captain of the ship. You would think that if the board was irritated with this, Tom G wouldn’t have been elected chairman.

Georgens stays as CEO and president so he now has all three major titles and responsibilities, being firmly in charge.

Warmenhoven will be remembered as NetApp’s CEO throughout its glory years. His reign would have been crowned with the Data Domain acquisition but he’ll be remembered for letting that one slip through his fingers with EMC snatching it from him in June 2009 – just days after he’d paraded Data Domain’s then CEO Frank Slootman as a trophy at a NetApp HQ all-hands meeting.

NetApp has not been a player of any significance in the Backup to disk/virtual tape library ever since then.

Warmenhoven will also be remembered for the Spinnaker acquisition as it took some eight years before that technology was integrated into NetApp's storage array OS, Data ONTAP. Some observers think that NetApp’s engineering preoccupation with that effort prevented the company advancing on other fronts.

Tom Georgen’s most pressing item is, this Vulture thinks, how to cope with the cloud, with Amazon and Google front and centre as strategic threats. The second one is how to raise revenues, with large and mid-range customer spending slowed by their increasing evaluation and adoption of cloud services from rivals and smaller customers choosing cheaper storage from competing startups including Nimble and Pure.

FlashRay should be a good riposte to all-flash arrays but, so far, like every other mainstream array vendor, NetApp simply has no effective product technology answer to the trio of hybrid array startups who are on a roll: Nimble Storage, Tegile and Tintri. ®

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