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Former NetApp chief chap boards board at storage upstart Cohesity

Storage establishment bigwig hops on, but is he the right fit for the job?

Dan Warmenhoven is joining Cohesity’s board to add his gravitas to the startup’s efforts to be seen as a major player.

He was NetApp CEO from 1994 to August 2009 and then its executive chairman from then until April 2014.

His replacement as CEO was his hand-picked successor Tom Georgens, who also became chairman in April 2014, who was then ousted as CEO and chairman in June this year.

Georgens failed to remedy a decline in NetApp's sales which began in its fiscal 2013 as four market forces began eating into its external array business: server-based virtual SANS and hyper-converged infrastructure appliance; all-flash arrays; new-design hybrid arrays; and public cloud-based storage.

Warmenhoven was a very successful CEO and chairman. He was a board member of Aruba Networks from 2006 until it was bought by HP in May this year, and has also been a board member at Palo Alto Networks since January 2012. Cohesity replaces Aruba in his board-level activities, as it were.

Cohesity says he brings “a wealth of strategic market guidance to Cohesity’s leadership team … with [a] deep understanding of the storage industry … Warmenhoven will leverage his technical knowledge and experience to accelerate the company’s growth and success in the secondary storage market.”


El Reg is not so sure about this wealth of strategic market guidance. Warmenhoven appointed Georgens as his successor and that turned out to be a failure. He failed to buy Data Domain, seeing EMC snatch it out of his fingers. NetApp then remained locked out of the deduping and backup-to-disk market for many years, losing access to potentially millions of dollars in revenue. It has been a mystery why NetApp did not buy Exagrid, for example.

The market forces hitting NetApp, and EMC, HDS, HPO, IBM and others, are things of which Warmenhoven has no first-hand experience.

Cohesity’s product is an external, shared storage array and software. Any growth in server-based, all-flash and public cloud storage could affect it. Warmenhoven failed, as did his successor, to make NetApp’s unified file and block, single logical storage silo, a dominant force in the market.

The main lesson he might bring to Cohesity in its attempt to have an all-embracing secondary storage silo is: “Don’t do what I did.”

Warmenhoven is a member of the great and good storage establishment, but he is yesterday’s man and, apart from adding gravitas to Cohesity's board and reputation, it’s hard to see what present day expertise he can lend the company in its efforts to break out into storage super-stardom. ®


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