Top Storage Networking Influencers

We refresh our sampling of key personalities in storage networking

February 1, 2008

14 Min Read
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Like any market, storage has its most valuable players, folk whose input is considered essential when weighing best practices, designing new products, and planning strategies. One might call them top "mindshareholders."

Of course, storage networking is a volatile and complicated world. Success can be fleeting. Tactics cheered one year are booed the next. (Can you say "hierarchical storage management"? "ILM"?)

It's a world where no one is expert in everything or stays in the spotlight for very long. Someone's always waiting in the wings with a fresh perspective, a cleverer solution, a better-funded startup.

These risks don't stop us, however, from profiling folk whose rise to the top of the heap has been established. As we do every year at least once, we've assembled a list of people we think of as top movers and shakers in storage networking -- at least for now.

Let's be clear: This isn't a list of household names. What you see in this article is a list (in alphabetical order, by the way) of professionals we consider to be among top influencers in storage. Unlike Joe Tucci, Diane Greene, Dave Hitz, Hu Yoshida, Dan Warmenhoven, and Jonathan Schwartz, these people aren't icons of data center technology. But behind the scenes, they're helping to shape it in a very real way.To qualify, we required those folk on our latest list to have the following:

  • A track record of influencing the storage networking market

  • Current influence with storage consumers, suppliers, pundits, and other industry constituents

  • Prospects for continuing to influence the above in the future, through their work, words, and actions.

As in past lists, we have tried for a list that spans the various industry sectors -- customer, supplier, analyst, and so forth.

No list like this can be comprehensive. What we've intended to do is present a sampling of key influencers, not the sum total thereof. That said, we welcome suggested additions.


The List:

Next Page: Ed Chapman, Cisco

As the VP of product management in Cisco's Data Center Business Unit, Ed Chapman holds a job that comes with built-in influence. But Chapman doesn't rely on that leverage alone. His leadership has clearly been a factor in Cisco's data center strategy for the last two years.

Chapman has played a key role in Cisco's efforts to unify its leadership in Ethernet networking with its ambitions as a storage networking provider. The vendor's Nexus switch announcement and its attendant storage elements demonstrate that the battle has moved to the next level.

Not everyone will like Fibre Channel over Ethernet or the prospect of supporting a new operating environment in Nexus. Followers of Brocade's fabric vision, and that of a range of other networking and storage suppliers, will find a lot to criticize in the approach Cisco has taken, with its clear emphasis on Ethernet as the backbone of choice.

Chapman, who has managed both Cisco's Catalyst switches and MDS 9000 series, will be in the eye of any upcoming storms. But he's been on the hot seat before and come through just fine.

Figure 9: Ed Chapman, VP, Product Management, Data Center Business Unit, Cisco Systems, Inc.

Next Page: John Grimes, U.S. DOD

As CIO for the Department of Defense (DOD) and assistant secretary of defense for networks and information, John Grimes is the man ultimately responsible for the U.S. military's gargantuan storage infrastructure.

From the vast, storage-intensive Navy and Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) project to the deployment of storage systems capable of withstanding the rigors of battle, the DOD is involved in some of world's largest and most demanding storage projects in the world.

The department, for example, is currently working with Brocade to build the "Meta SAN", already touted as one of the world's largest SANs. Described by Brocade as "one of the largest consolidated enterprise storage networks in the world," the DOD deal called for that vendor to supply a total of 17,000 Fibre Channel switch ports, although this figure is now said to be closer to 20,000.Announced in September 2006, the Meta SAN also includes over 700 directors and around 60 switches and will eventually support 3 million DOD users in 163 countries.

Maryland native Grimes will draw on his extensive experience in the private sector during the rollout of projects such as the Meta SAN. Prior to his appointment by President George Bush in November 2005, the exec worked as vice president of Intelligence and Information Systems at defense contractor Raytheon.

Crucially, the DOD CIO also has a military and policy background. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Grimes is also a graduate of the Army War College and has served on the White House National Security Council staff.

The CIO also ranks as mover and shaker in terms of his massive spending power. Late last year, for example, Congress passed the Defense Authorization Bill, which earmarked $679 billion for the DOD in fiscal year 2008, including $189 billion in supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With plenty of federal money to spend, analysts are predicting that storage will continue to feature prominently in defense projects, underlining Grimes's ongoing role as a key figure in the storage industry.

Figure 8: John Grimes, CIO, U.S. Department of Defense

Next Page: Urs Holzle, Google

Urs Holzle makes it onto this list as the mastermind of Google's highly secretive server, storage, and network infrastructure.

The storage side of this equation is sometimes referred to as the Google File System (GFS), and apparently consists of thousands of inexpensive Linux-based commodity servers clustered to share large, multi-Gbyte files.

The specifics of Google's network are sketchy, but a few key elements are well known: The search giant relies heavily on open source technologies such as Linux to manage large quantities of commodity hardware. According to a note last year on the Website of Google's research labs, the firm's largest cluster provides hundreds of terabytes of storage across thousands of disks on over 1,000 machines."We currently use a combination of off-the-shelf, and custom software running on commodity computers," explains the firm's most recent annual report, adding that this brings several key benefits. "This infrastructure simplifies the storage and processing of large amounts of data, eases the deployment and operation of large-scale global products and services, and automates much of the administration of large scale clusters of computers."

Much of this architecture was built on Holzle's watch. The SVP of operations' work has already grabbed the interest of other IT managers and CIOs looking to build storage systems of comparable scale.

And there's no slowing down in sight. At least one Google exec has already confirmed that his company's storage, compute power, and bandwidth are growing at an alarming rate, a trend which looks set to continue. Reflecting this, the search engine firm's capital expenditures grew from $838.2 million in 2005 to almost $2 billion in 2006, most of which was spent on technology.

Despite his key role at Google, Holzle largely avoids the limelight, although he is at the forefront of the vendor's green initiatives, which are also being closely monitored by other users attempting to harness spiraling energy costs.

In a blog entry last year, the former computer science professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, explained that Google has set a goal of creating 50 megawatts of renewable generation capacity by 2012, enough to power 50,000 U.S. homes.The exec, who is famed for his trademark red socks, is also involved in Google's strategy to build data centers close to alternative power supplies, such as Council Bluffs, Iowa, and along the banks of the Columbia river in Oregon.

With Google ramping up its strategy around software as a service (SaaS), specifically <="" a="">, expect the search giant to rely heavily on Holzle's talents over the coming years.

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<="" a="">Figure 7: Urs Holzle, SVP of operations, Google

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<="" a="">Next Page: Brian Householder, HDS

As SVP of business planning and development for Hitachi Data Systems, Brian Householder has been the brains behind the company's strategic relationships since October 2005. Before that, he was a senior director of software strategy and business development at HDS, a post he'd held since joining the company in 2003.That puts a range of key partnerships to his credit, including a high-end NAS OEM agreement with BlueArc; another OEM deal with CommVault involving CDP; and a deal to resell QLogic switches, to name just a few.

"Brian has a lot of fresh ideas, is not afraid to pull the trigger on more M&A, brings a spirit of inclusiveness to a traditionally insular corporate and partnering culture," writes one industry observer, on condition of anonymity.

In his late thirties, Householder is also viewed as something of a wunderkind for his meteoric rise in a conservative Japanese company. His education and early experience fit that characterization. Householder got a BS in business administration from Indiana University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Prior to HDS, he worked in senior product management and marketing jobs at Storage Networks Inc. He also worked as a senior financial analyst at Procter and Gamble and as a consultant at the Parthenon Group.

Figure 5: Brian Householder, SVP, Business Planning and Development, HDS

Next Page: Ullas Naik, Globespan Capital PartnersBladelogic. Copan, Certeon, GlassHouse Technologies, Revivio. Ullas Naik's knack for identifying startups with a winning proposition is clearly reflected in the long list of storage outfits he's invested in on behalf of his firm.

"Be open minded and adapt nimbly to change," is the motto Naik's posted for himself on his company's Website. And it seems that as a managing director of Globespan in Palo Alto, Calif., he's lived up to it. His ability to recognize the potential value of disruptive storage technologies like MAID and CDP is recognized industrywide.

Not that Naik restricts himself to storage. He also scouts out startups in clean energy, wireless, and nanoscale technologies, indicating the scope of his perspective.

Naik started his career as a star-spotter with stints as a managing director of JAFCO Ventures and an SVP in the technology research group at First Albany. He has a BS in chemistry from Bombay University and an MBA from Bentley College.

Figure 11: Ullas Naik, Managing Director, Globespan Capital

Next Page: Dave Roberson, HP

The SVP and GM of HP's StorageWorks division has long been a force in the storage market. As CEO of HDS, he sent shock waves through the storage industry last summer when he jumped ship to HP.

It was on Roberson's watch that HDS pushed its NAS and archiving strategies to the next level, forging an alliance with BlueArc in December 2006 and buying Archivas for a rumored $100 million in February 2007.

Stepping into an extremely challenging role at HP, Roberson finds himself spearheading the vendor's ongoing efforts to get its storage business back on track after a slowdown in its revenues and extensive internal reshuffles.

Shrewdly, the exec has already pushed HP onto the green storage bandwagon, and had a hand in the power and cooling initiatives announced by the vendor last year.It will take time to determine how well Roberson can help turn HP's storage fortunes around long term. But the groundwork has been laid, and there are signs of things heading in the right direction. HP enjoyed some solid growth in its most recent quarterly results, with storage revenues up 7 percent year-over-year, despite ongoing softness in the vendor's high-end disk and tape businesses.

Figure 10: Dave Roberson, SVP and GM, HP StorageWorks

Next Page: Bill Watkins, Seagate

The CEO of Seagate is among the key movers in the hard disk drive market, if not the mover. Since his appointment as CEO in 2004, following four years as Seagate COO and eight years with the company, he's been credited with taking the lead in Seagate's ongoing progress at the head of the HDD pack.

Among other things, Watkins has been lauded for pushing Seagate toward the production of high-capacity SAS drives priced to sell at prices comparable to SATA. He's also got an instinct for steering his ship into interesting waters that might not be considered a fit for a disk drive player.For example, when Seagate bought e-discovery service provider MetaLINCS in December 2007, the move signaled an awareness of SaaS as a potential growth market that may not have interested more traditionally minded manufacturers.

"Watkins has stabilized prices and inventories for the industry, led consolidation, and smartly moved into online backup services. He is a little behind in the hybrid DRAM-Flash drive arena, but do not expect that to last long," says one industry source, who asked not to be named.

Active in a range of civic projects and groups, including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Watkins has a BS in political science from the University of Texas. Prior to his tenure at Seagate, he worked at Conner Peripherals, where he set up that company's disk division and oversaw its merger with Seagate.

Figure 6: William D. Watkins, Chief Executive Officer, Seagate

Next Page: Bryan Wolf, Intel CapitalThe funding side of storage networking is controversial and unpredictable. With a superfluity of promising startups taking aim at the lucrative prospects of data protection and management, it's tough to pick real winners from the lineup.

But so far, Bryan Wolf and his team of financiers at Intel have managed just fine: AppIQ (now part of HP); Mellanox (now public); Rainfinity (now part of EMC); and Topio (now owned by Network Appliance) are just a few of the past investments that stand to their credit.

More recent investments include Nirvanix, Atempo, and Nanochip.

What's needed to oversee this choice slice of Intel Capital's $2.6 billion portfolio? A Wharton MBA helps -- which Wolf obtained following graduation from the University of Oregon with a BS in political science and economics. Also required is a day-to-day knowledge of the facts of business life -- several years as a finance manager for Intel's Enterprise Products Group helped Wolf with that.

Wolf isn't only a managing director of Intel Capital. He's also director of business development for Intel's Digital Enterprise Group -- the group responsible for Intel's multicore processors for data center products.

Figure 2: Bryan Wolf, Managing Director, Intel Capital

Next Page: Steve Yatko, Credit Suisee

Steve Yatko is one of the people whose office is a pilgrimage site for storage vendors. That new products are routinely brought to him for blessing is common knowledge.

"You always hear that someone's checking with Steve," says one industry observer, who asked to stay anonymous. "His name comes up all the time."

That's no surprise: As a managing director of Credit Suisse and head of its Global R&D IT Group based in New York City, Yatko doesn't just set the direction for the computing environment of an enormous financial network. He also advises on specific investments, such as a $15.6 million investment in enterprise software startup FaceTime Communications Inc. led by Credit Suisse in September 2007.Yatko is one of those people who didn't need graduate school to advance his career. He's got a BS in computer science from Penn State University. Before joining Credit Suisse in 1995, he worked at Lehman Brothers overseeing that firm's equity trading system development.

Figure 4: Steve Yatko, Managing Director and Head of Global R&D IT Group, Credit Suisse

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Credit Suisse

  • Globespan Capital Partners

  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • Intel Capital

  • Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX)

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