CreekPath Tries New Path

SRM startup's new CEO wants to bring back the buzz

July 1, 2005

4 Min Read
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After six months as a headless company, CreekPath Systems Inc. has a new CEO looking to re-energize” the storage resource management startup (see CreekPath Names CEO).

Mark Davis replaces Dennis Grant, who stepped down in January after spending 26 months as CreekPath CEO. Grant raised $54 million from VCs in three rounds, including $22 million in September (see CreekPath Seeks New CEO and CreekPath Reels In $22M).

In his new post, Davis will also look for new funding. But his primary goal is to jumpstart a company that lost momentum last year, even as SRM’s popularity soared (see SRM Takes Software Center Stage and IDC: Software Grows Faster).

“Perception is often reality, and there’s clearly been less buzz around the company,” Davis says. A year ago, he acknowledges, CreekPath was considered a candidate for an IPO or acquisition, but now it is seen as a company struggling to find its identity after layoffs and executive changes. “I think the company hasn’t done a good job connecting with the market. We’re just beginning to get this place re-energized and re-focused.”

Davis will emphasize CreekPath’s business process capabilities, which he says make it stand apart from other SRM packages. While rivals concentrate mainly on configuring and managing devices, CreekPath provides reports to help customers make decisions, such as when to add or reallocate storage. Its latest upgrade, released earlier this month, added to those capabilities, and future releases will go further in that direction, though it may take time to get them out.“There’s a great deal of data our product collects,” Davis says. “There’s a level of analysis we can provide to customers that we don’t do enough of yet. We can do some more things this year, but it will take time to fully build out."

Meanwhile, he’s also looking to take a page from rival startup AppIQ Inc.’s book and strike OEM deals with storage vendors. “I believe there’s a lot of opportunity for us to help partners. It’s a priority of mine.”

That makes sense, because SRM is sold largely through storage vendors. Outside of Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS), the top five SRM vendors are EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM). The four systems companies combined for approximately 70 percent of the market last quarter, according to IDC.

That market itself is robust. IDC says it grew 14.1 percent to $682 million in the first quarter of this year. CreekPath, which Davis claims has “a couple of dozen” customers, mostly large enterprise accounts, has collected just a drop in the bucket. What's gone wrong?

One answer, experts say, has to do with CreekPath's resistance to adopting the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA)’s Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), an industry-approved protocol that ensures that SRM tools will work with hardware from different vendors.The standards approach to SRM has gained steam in recent months, and AppIQ has turned its early SMI-S support into OEM deals with HP, Hitachi, Engenio Information Technologies Inc., Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) (NYSE: SGI), and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW). (See HP OEMs AppIQ SRM, AppIQ & Engenio Join for Software, and Sun Shines on AppIQ.)

CreekPath hung back from SMI-S initially, and at least one analyst says it hurt the firm. “I’ve always thought they’ve had a pretty good approach, but they haven’t had been able to get any traction like AppIQ and others,” says John Webster of Data Mobility Group. “They’ve been slow to get on board with SMI-S. They resisted that whole movement, and it’s cost them.”

Davis says CreekPath plans to undergo SNIA’s Conformance Testing Program for storage management applications this year, but it’s already behind in the game: AppIQ, EMC, HP, Hitachi, IBM, Sun, Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) (NYSE: CA), Crosswalk Inc., and Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) have passed the test (see SNIA Releases Client Conformance).

Can Davis pull off a turnaround at CreekPath? It’s hard to judge his track record, because he has none as a CEO. Most of his jobs have been in marketing and product development. In between early stints at Sun and Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK) and his most recent position as marketing VP of virtualization startup vendor MonoSphere Inc., Davis worked at ConvergeNet, Evolve Software, and Candera -- companies with checkered histories.

Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) acquired early storage virtualization startup ConvergeNet for $332 million in 1999 in an early attempt to get into storage, but ended up scrapping the technology and partnering with EMC. Project management software vendor Evolve went public in 2000, but sold off its assets after filing for Chapter 11 protection in 2003. Davis joined storage controller startup Candera in 2001 when it was known as Confluence Networks and left in 2003 before it started shipping its wares (see Startup: 'Shut Up!' ). Candera folded in January (see Candera's Closed).Davis says even with the failed companies, he’s learned a lot. Hopefully, that knowledge will help CreekPath start down a new path.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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