Sun U.S. Sales Head Napolitano Leaving

Stepping up to head Sun's U.S. sales is Tim Lieto, who is being promoted from vice president of U.S. sales to senior vice president of Americas sales. Lieto will report to Don Grantham, executive vice president of global sales and services. Replacing Lieto as vice president of U.S. sales is Cheryl Cook, who has been at Sun since 1998.

Sun broke the news internally early this month and informed its major solution providers shortly thereafter, according to channel sources. A Sun spokesperson confirmed the imminent resignation of Napolitano but was unable to say what his plans were going forward.

In addition, Sun reorganized its storage business operations, marketing and partner management into one storage marketing and business operations unit within its Storage Group. That organization is headed by Nigel Dessau, who was promoted on Wednesday to vice president of storage marketing and business operations. Before the change, Dessau was the chief marketing officer of StorageTek, a Sun acquisition.

The executive moves are the latest in a string of management and organizational changes at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun.

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Last month, Mark Canepa, the head of Sun's Data Management Group, left to pursue other opportunities after 10 years at the company. He was replaced by David Yen, formerly vice president of Sun's Scalable Systems Group, which encompasses Sun's SPARC servers.

At the same time, Sun also merged its Scalable Systems Group and Network Systems Group--responsible for Sun's Opteron servers--into the new Sun Systems Group, led by Executive Vice President John Fowler, who previously ran the Network Systems Group.

And the month before, Jonathan Schwartz was named president and CEO, with Scott McNealy retaining his role as chairman.

Napolitano joined Sun in 2002 when it acquired Pirus, where he was president and CEO. Sun named Napolitano to head U.S. sales in January 2005, when former U.S. Vice President of Sales Bill Cook was ousted after a reorganization of the company's sales organization.

Napolitano's resignation has some Sun solution providers worried about the company's future sales efforts. One solution provider, who asked not to be named, said Napolitano's exit could have a major impact. "Napolitano was the first guy to get the ball rolling on sales at Sun in six years," the solution provider said.

Though a good choice to take over for Napolitano, Lieto might find it difficult to deal with the rest of Sun, the solution provider added. "Lieto played Robin to Napolitano's Batman. He's a great guy. But he's not into the politics. He's a go-getter. He really rolls up his sleeves. But a lot of people in Sun do well because they move into the politics of the company."

Another solution provider also praised Napolitano's tenure as head of Sun's sales but said his resignation--following the reorganization of Sun's storage management so closely--is cause for concern. "It worries the heck out of me," said the solution provider, who requested anonymity. "Sun keeps changing the guard. Every time it changes the guard, everything gets put on hold again. The street is saying the good people are leaving Sun, while the knuckleheads are staying."

Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based Sun solution provider, said the impact from Napolitano's resignation shouldn't be that strong.

"Napolitano really helped turn around Sun's sales organization," Teter said. "He's a serial entrepreneur. He accomplished what Sun needed. Sun can continue with the strategy he laid out. He really energized the Sun sales force and brought more energy to Sun than it had for a long time."