Talari CEO Promises 'Maniacal' Focus On Customers, Channels

named the new CEO of WAN virtualization upstart Talari Networks

"The things I look for are really all the things that make companies really successful," said Woods in a recent interview with CRN. "I look at, is the market big, and is it a problem people pay real money for."

At Talari, he succeeds co-founder Andy Gottlieb, who will remain a member of Talari's board of directors. Woods was referred to Talari by a recruitment firm, he said, and the opportunity became apparent pretty quickly.

"Several things struck me as I looked at the Talari opportunity," Woods said. "One was that I heard words like disruptive and transformative. I'm not an expert in WAN op or WAN virtualization space, but it's been easy for me to explain what we do. It's pretty simple. One thing I absolutely believe is that the demand for bandwidth will continue to increase, and increase exponentially. The budgets to afford that will not. So what we allow people to do is as their bandwidth grows, they can use it cheaply and affordably. What we do is very complex, but I can explain it very simply."

Founded in 2004, Talari is based in San Jose and backed by venture capital, including Menlo Ventures and Silver Creek Ventures. Talari's Adaptive Private Networking (APN) products work similarly to how Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) technology is used in storage. The APN tools use RAID-like techniques, various algorithms and overlay networking to pull multiple IP bandwidth sources, including DSL, cable and broadband, to WAN connections.

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The company is fond of positioning itself not as a competitor to the various WAN optimization players in the industry, but as a complement.

Woods was most recently CEO of Global IP Solutions (GIPS), which was acquired by Google in 2010 for $68.2 million. He's spent much of the past decade in various CEO roles, including V-Enable, Aligo and Trapezo, and also Vicinity Corp., which he led to a $125 million IPO in 2000 and then sold to Microsoft two years later.

"I'm at a point where I probably have one or two more CEO opportunities in front of me," said Woods. "I'm probably beyond the stage where I can do an early-stage startup -- I'm 55 now, and startups are a great thing at 35 but a little harder when you're 55. I was looking at software companies, because that's what I know, but the recruiters that put me in at GIPS said you should look at this because one of the things we know you know how to do is get companies to scale."

He's seen plenty of companies that rose up as promising startups but could never quite break beyond their initial buzz. Woods said one key to Talari keeping its momentum up is driving channel partnerships, and bolstering the channel partnerships Talari's already nurtured. About 95 percent of Talari's business goes through the channel.

"I've been here for about two weeks and a lot of the conversation we've been having is really around what can we do in terms of making these more profitable deployments for our partners," Woods said. "I'll be really spending time with them on what can we do to help us both be more successful. At the end of the day, my major focus is customers."

Woods won't make dramatic changes in Talari's corporate structure, but he is looking for a new vice president of sales. Tom Pettigrew, the former F5 Networks vice president of global channels and emerging markets, had joined Talari in Nov. 2009 as vice president, worldwide sales, and retired earlier this year.

Woods has spent much of his first two weeks in customer meetings and he plans to be a visible presence over the next few months.

"I'll be focused on us running lean and mean," Woods said. "I'm maniacal about customers and channels."