Top Women in Storage

We present a lineup whose presence in storage belies the 'all boys' trend

September 26, 2007

18 Min Read
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The storage management segment of IT is an exciting place to work. With data management and protection becoming top enterprise priorities, anyone with talent to contribute has a chance for success.

So where are the women?

IT in general is underpopulated by women workers. According to statistics from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), women held 26 percent of professional IT-related occupations in the American workforce in 2006. This happened even though 51 percent of professional occupations in the U.S. last year were held by women.

There are a range of theories about why women aren't attracted to IT -- or aren't succeeding in large numbers in the profession. Some of these, most of them variants of the "glass ceiling" argument, undoubtedly can be extended to the storage networking sector.

So it's all the more heartening to see women who do rise to the top of the storage food chain. Despite real and perceived biases, people like Diane Greene, CEO of VMware, have managed to not only lay claim to the corner office, but to do so in a sector that's supremely difficult and competitive to navigate.We at Byte and Switch think it's worth taking time to review a few examples of female storage stars. In this roundup, we've picked some key influencers and winners in order to hone in on the qualities that enabled them to soar in a field where so many others wouldn't dare even to venture.

To make this list of professionals, women have to be top influencers in the storage market. These are people whose day-to-day decisions affect the way storage networkers do their jobs. While the majority work for suppliers, at least one works for the kind of organization that suppliers use as a touchstone for technological trends.

We'd like to stress that this list (presented in alpha order, by the way) is offered as a starting point. Have we missed anyone? Are there other women in storage who also deserve recognition? If there are, we'll check them out and profile deserving candidates in follow-up articles. You have our email addresses and numbers. You can post on the message board below. Or write to us anytime here.


The List:

Next Page: Karen Dutch, NEC

Karen Dutch, general manager of the Advanced Storage Products Group at NEC Corp. of America, has played a major role in articulating the use of backup automation and grid storage technology at her company and elsewhere.

Dutch, who has a bachelor's degree in computer science and mathematics from Duke University, began her career as a systems programmer in the storage division of IBM in 1977, where she worked on the companys first automation and system managed storage projects. She moved on to Brocade Communications in 1999, where she was solutions marketing director working on SAN solutions, then to SAN software startup InterSAN in 2001, where she was vice president of marketing when that company went public in 2002. InterSAN received backing from IBM and other storage heavyweights, and then in 2002 the company went public.

In the summer of 2003, Dutch moved to Softek, where she led efforts to create and market that company’s automated storage solutions, which were aimed at easing the management of multivendor grid storage infrastructures. Later, Softek, which was spun out of Fujitsu in 2004, was acquired by IBM in March 2007.

By the time that occurred, though, Dutch was at NEC, where she started as entrepreneur in residence in April 2005 before becoming general manager of Advanced Storage Products, responsible for developing and marketing the company’s next-generation storage wares.At NEC, Dutch is pushing grid storage networking forward by designing and promoting the Hydrastor architecture, which integrates grid technology with data management solutions. Her main contribution became evident this month, when the company released the Hydrastor HS8, a disk-based storage system that packs backup and archiving, as well as de-duplication and data compression. Though the product will see competition from the likes of Data Domain, analysts have said it's bound to make a mark on the storage industry.

Dutch has already made her mark.

Figure 1: Karen Dutch, General Manager, Advanced Storage Products Group, NEC Corp. of America

Next Page: Diane Greene, VMware

Diane Greene's path from co-founding VMware nine years ago to the ringing of the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange August 14, 2007, has taken her well beyond the dreams of most software engineers -- whatever their gender.Greene, 52, holds degrees in mechanical engineering, naval architecture, and computer science from the University of Vermont, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California at Berkeley, respectively. She and her husband, Stanford Professor Mendel Rosenblum, helped found VMware in 1998.

Greene brought plenty of experience to the new endeavor, including technical leadership jobs at Silicon Graphics, Tandem, and Sybase, and a stint as CEO of Vxtreme, a company sold in 1997 to Microsoft for a rumored $75 million.

VMware's early days gave little hint of imminent stardom. The startup went out on a limb early by basing its wares on mainstream x86 servers that weren't designed for virtualization. It was a message that resonated well with IT managers, but it wasn't an instant sale.

Greene is credited with evangelizing virtualization so successfully that by 2003, the firm had gained sufficient momentum to capture serious attention from EMC, which plunked down $635 million in December 2003 to acquire the startup.

Progress hasn't slowed. By making virtualization an accepted industry standard, VMware has stimulated competition. Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and its associated Viridian hypervisor are looming, and VMware is locked in battle with XenSource, now owned by Citrix.VMware's momentum is strong, though, as evidenced in its IPO, in which 33 million shares raised $1.7 billion, doubling the company's initial goal. Investors included Cisco and Intel in what became a landmark event in IT history.

Greene knows there can be no slowdown now. She's out in front, preaching the use of virtualization for disaster recovery and data center energy conservation. And as virtualization's future plays out, it's a safe bet Diane Greene will continue to play a leading role.

Figure 2: Diane Greene, President, CEO, and Co-founder, VMware

Next Page: Ann Livermore, HP

Ann Livermore has become the turnaround expert at HP's Technology Solutions Group, which sells servers, storage devices, software, and services -- and brings in more than one third of HP's annual revenue.It hasn't been easy. Livermore, 48, was the valedictorian of her North Carolina high school and later a graduate of Stanford University’s business school before joining HP at 24. She worked her way up through the ranks in sales, marketing, and R&D before being appointed a corporate executive vice president in 1995.

Her rise to stardom began in the 90s, when she made it her mission to gain a Web presence for HP in a market where competitors were pulling ahead. Despite her long tenure in an organization known for its warring divisions, Livermore unified HP's units to create an E-services business.

By 1999, Livermore was the only company insider to make the short list for the CEO position, which she ultimately lost to Carly Fiorina. Six years later, after Fiorina was ousted and CEO Mark Hurd arrived to mend HP’s financial woes, he put his faith in Livermore.That’s when her experience in rethinking business strategies began to pay off for the company’s data and storage products.

Livermore set out to slash expenditures, including initiating a round of layoffs, which tore into morale but boosted the company’s stock. Then Livermore changed focus, attempting to breathe new life into storage and data by wrapping services around software and network components, using resources from across the company. She also reworked the marketing plan, adding hundreds of new salespeople to aggressively target the mid-market and focus on the emerging SMB arena. (See HP Rethinks Storage Plays.)

The strategies seem to be paying off. In the third quarter 2007 earnings call, Hurd cited Livemore’s group as a boon to the company’s 16 percent growth year-over-year, and he noted a 6 percent boost in the storage division, which had remained flat for some time. (See HP's Storage Sneaks Up and Storage Hurts HP's Quarter.)

Figure 3: Ann Livermore, Executive Vice President, Technology Solutions Group, Hewlett-Packard

Next Page: Barbara Murphy, AMCC

In the tough world of storage components, Barbara Murphy has managed to stay ahead of the game. Indeed, her division is presently the bright spot in AMCC's otherwise grim financial landscape: In first-quarter 2008 results, storage revenues rose 5 percent sequentially, while the rest of the company took a a 40 percent nosedive.

Murphy's success seems tied to her vision of storage. "We're seeing true convergence of networking and storage," she told Byte and Switch in an interview in August. The highest market growth, she points out, is in companies like Cisco that blur the line between the two segments of expertise.

Murphy's acumen seems to have developed over time. She came to AMCC from 3ware, where she served a year as VP of marketing before the company was acquired by AMCC in 2004. Before that, she'd been a marketing consultant for a couple of years, after spending five years in marketing at Adaptec and an Adaptec spin-off called Roxio. Earlier, she worked at marketing jobs at British Telecom North America and at GEC Plessey Telecommunications, after earning a degree in engineering at the University of Limerick, Ireland. She took a subsequent MBA stateside at Santa Clara University.At AMCC, Murphy appears to have come into her own. In addition to raising revenues in spite of bleak surroundings, she's led AMCC's development of a SAS RAID controller that is scheduled for release October 1. That product, which is geared for networked disk arrays, will ship by the end of this fiscal quarter and is now in evaluation at two "major" but unnamed OEMs.

It was a rocky road. AMCC is late out of the gate with SAS because it waited for partner Marvell to produce the chips needed for the controller. When progress was too slow, Murphy's group turned to Emulex and cut a second deal to get the chips it needed. Emulex remains in place for AMCC's controller, though Marvell subsequently decided to move forward with SAS. "Largely, I hope we had some degree of influence on them," Murphy says.

Murphy is determined to keep in the thick of the storage fray. She's focused on the design issues of RAID acceleration, fault tolerance, data protection, video storage, Ethernet SANs, email management, Web caching, and other current problems of data management, and she moves from one to another with a sharp coherence and confidence in her products and people.

Some trends she questions: "People want to add virtualization at the switch or box level, but you need to put it as far up the food chain as possible," she says. "Virtualization at my level is insane, quite honestly. The promise of virtualization is phenomenal, but the reason we're having to look at virtualization is that we're living in a file-based world designed by our friends in Redmond many years ago." Object-based storage, she notes, would be simpler to manage.

Murphy's opinions and choices are important, because the future of her division may well determine the fate of AMCC, which like other component suppliers faces the choice to throw its weight behind storage or flee the segment for good.Murphy is typically undaunted when asked whether she minds working for a company that's relatively new to the storage game. "Adaptec and LSI have been longtime players in the SCSI market. As they move to SAS, they have to protect their share. I can't lose. I don't have it to lose. I can only win. I really like that."

Figure 4: Barbara Murphy, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Storage, AMCC

Next Page: Nancy Stewart, Wal-Mart

As SVP and CTO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Nancy Stewart is the only woman on this list whose title and job description don't directly include the word storage. But as the person in charge of technology implementation for one of the bellwether companies in the IT world, we think she belongs here.

After all, if companies like IBM, HP, Microsoft, NCR, and SAS -- all reportedly Wal-Mart suppliers of data management solutions -- hang on Stewart's decisions, we think that more than qualifies her as a key storage influencer.Stewart reports to Rollin Ford, EVP and CIO of Wal-Mart Information Systems Division. Her direct reports include two VPs and a senior director, and she is indirectly responsible for the performance of 785 associated employees.

She's also in charge of an awesome IT setup that reportedly includes over 11 mainframes supporting over 2,000 processors, and dual data centers (one for failover) in Bentonville, Ark., that govern the company's massive international retail network.

We say "reportedly," since most information on Wal-Mart's IT is second- or third-hand, grabbed from the occasional presentation Stewart gives at arcane professional gatherings, or caught on the fly by observers astute enough to pass the information along. Rarely does Wal-Mart tip its hand to the press regarding information technology. (See Wal-Mart Picks HP and Can RFID Unwire Data Centers?)

Stewart is said to be a proponent of in-house solutions based on a compilation of solid commercial products. Remarkably, the Wal-Mart IT powerhouse is said to operate with fewer than 100 hands-on designers and implementers.

Stewart, who has a master's degree from MIT, has worked at Wal-Mart since March 2004, when she arrived after serving a distinguished three years as business services information officer. Before that, she spent more than 20 years at IBM in various technology management positions, including work on large systems and storage.We think it's a safe bet that Nancy Stewart is one of the unseen movers and shakers in the IT world -- and someone worth watching, however heavily guarded she may be in the Wal-Mart fortress.

Figure 5: Nancy Stewart, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Wal-Mart

Next Page: Jayshree Ullal, Cisco

When Jayshree Ullal was appointed to her present job in 2005, she made it her mission to convince IT managers that Cisco was more than a simple seller of boxes. Cisco, she insisted, would be the "intelligent fabric" between disparate networking technologies in the data center. (See Cisco Names Data Chief.)

It's a philosophy that's typical of large suppliers seeking to break out of long-held molds. But implementing it requires focus, something Ullal has proven to have in abundance.Now in her fifth VP-level post at Cisco, Ullal is the driving force behind Cisco’s recently announced Data Center 3.0 strategy, which features shared pools of virtualized server storage and network resources, optimizing application performance and service levels.

Yes, it's a big vendor's grand scheme, but it's also got support at the top. And it's up to Ullal to make it happen as she oversees a portfolio responsible for $8 billion in direct sales and $15 billion in indirect revenue.

Ullal’s division is battling fiercely to become a more relevant competitor to players like HP, Microsoft, and IBM that were much quicker to infiltrate the data center. So far, there's notable progress, particularly in storage: Cisco CEO John Chambers has highlighted storage performance in earnings calls in the past three quarters, and some analysts estimate storage figures are hovering in the range of $230 million quarterly.

Ullal’s data center campaign involves much strategic acquisition as well as internal design and execution. In recent months, Cisco bought Neopath Networks, which develops virtualization technology designed to improve performance of file storage. Cisco also threw its weight behind the Fibre Channel-over-Ethernet specification and acquired packet processing startup SpansLogic. And Cisco made a $150 million investment in VMWare, acquiring a 1.6 percent ownership of the virtualization software company.

That Ullal would be the driving force behind the diversification of Cisco’s data center offering is no surprise. She's always excelled not only in the basics of technology but in applying them to specific commercial needs and hitting the mark. In her time at Cisco, Ullal is credited in part with leading the vendor into optical networking, storage, and security.Born in London, Ullal was raised in India and then came to the U.S. where she earned her bachelor's degree in engineering at San Francisco State University and a master's in engineering at Santa Clara State University. She started her career as an engineer, first designing chips and later switch architecture for Ethernet startup Crescendo Communications. At Crescendo, Ullal helped pioneer 100-Mbit/s Copper Distributed Data Interface (CDDI) products. She landed at Cisco when it acquired Crescendo 14 years ago to obtain the foundation for its Ethernet switch business.

Figure 6: Jayshree Ullal, SVP Data Center, Switching and Security Technology Group, Cisco Systems

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.

  • Adaptec Inc. (Nasdaq: ADPT)

  • Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) (Nasdaq: AMCC)

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

  • LSI Corp. (NYSE: LSI)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY; Tokyo: 6701)

  • XenSource Inc.

    Industry veteran Paula Long is the co-founder of SAN specialist EqualLogic, where she serves as executive vice president of products and strategy. After filing its S-1 a couple of months ago, EqualLogic's IPO is now said to be imminent, as the iSCSI vendor joins a growing list of public storage companies.

    The exec has played a key role in the rise of EqualLogic, which is ramping up sales at a rapid rate. An amendment to the vendor's S-1, filed earlier this month, reveals that EqualLogic's annual revenues grew from $30 million in 2005 to $68.1 million in 2006. For the first six months of 2007, EqualLogic brought in $53.2 million, according to the SEC filing.

    Although Long was unwilling to provide comment for this article, on account of the "quiet period" preceding EqualLogic's IPO, the exec is nonetheless regarded as something of a rising star.Last year, Long was a finalist in Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year competition, and she has worked in a number of roles during a 20-year career in IT. As director of enterprise products at software vendor Allaire, now part of Macromedia, Long was responsible for application load balancing, and high availability products. The exec also spent time as director of engineering at software developer Bright Tiger Technologies, which was acquired by Allaire in 1999.

    At the start of her career, Long also held senior engineering positions at Digital Equipment Corporation, and she is still heavily involved in the engineering community. The exec reportedly travels around New England speaking to high school students as part of the Women in Engineering Forum, and she is a member of the advisory board for the Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass.

    Away from the boardroom and the development lab, Long is also said to be involved with a soup kitchen in Nashua, N.H., where EqualLogic is based.

    Figure 7: Paula Long, executive vice president of products and strategy, EqualLogic

    The NeoScale CEO is regarded as one of the prime movers in the storage security space, with her firm picking up a roster of big-name partners for its encryption technology.NeoScale tripled its sales between 2005 and 2006, although the vendor does not break out actual figures.

    NeoScale has also been busy with VCs over the last few years, amassing around $60 million in funding.

    The CEO, who took the helm of NeoScale in 2003, has racked up more than 25 years of IT industry experience. Previously, Nelson was executive vice president for corporate strategy, marketing, and IT at Quantum, where she oversaw the integration of that company's acquisitions. The exec also served as president of Quantum's DLT tape group and general manager of that vendor's $3 billion desktop hard drive business.

    In addition to Quantum, Nelson spent 13 years at Intel, where she held senior positions in general management, marketing, engineering, and operations. Other roles include a spell as a director at wireless specialist Ace Technology and executive positions at Maxtor, Weitek, and Lumina.

    Away from work, Nelson is a director of the Support Network for Battered Women0

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