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Charles Stevens, Corporate VP, Enterprise Storage Division, Microsoft Corp.

As corporate VP of the Enterprise Storage Division at Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Charles Stevens is at the forefront of the company's foray into storage networking.

He's got an interesting gig. Few companies have the market influence of Microsoft, so the company's momentum in any area related to server and desktop computing can't be ignored. And the company's riding a storage high.

Microsoft's competing directly for NAS dollars with Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP). It's gotten into security integration with the big Fibre Channel suppliers. And by certifying a slew of iSCSI hardware vendors for Windows compatibility late in 2003, Microsoft upped the ante for the low-end storage market. (See Sands Shift Under NAS Market, Microsoft VP Sounds Off on SAN Security, Microsoft Blesses iSCSI Hardware.)

Key to it all is Microsoft's plan to use its server software to leverage its way further into the low-end storage market, where a growing roster of companies is consolidating file and print servers and beefing them up with common storage facilities on IP networks.

The strategy has taken awhile to unfold. Folk perked up when the Redmond Sasquatch made known its storage ambitions two years ago by founding the division for which Stevens now runs sales, marketing, and product management. But few expected much for awhile, anyway. After all, the market was struggling, and SANs were still more or less a non-issue at the level of small-to-medium-sized businesses and departments. To the outside world, the project seemed little more than a prospecting assignment for Stevens's boss, senior exec Bob Muglia (see Microsoft's Stealth Storage Play).

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