NetApp Ousts Georgens, Names Kurian New CEO

George Kurian

Storage vendor NetApp on Monday named a new CEO, disclosing that Tom Georgens, who has served for years as chairman and CEO, has left the company.

In his place, NetApp's board of directors has appointed George Kurian, executive vice president of product operations, as the company's new CEO. Lead independent director Mike Nevens is NetApp's new chairman.

No reason was given for the departure of the 10-year NetApp veteran who has served as CEO since August 2009. The company has been struggling of late, last month reporting a drop in revenue and income, a slowdown in its U.S. commercial business and a drop in sales through the channel for its fourth fiscal quarter, and said it plans to lay off about 500 employees over the rest of this year.

[Related: NetApp CEO Georgens Sees 'Re-Balancing' Ahead]

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"It's no secret the brand is struggling, so it's not surprising. It's probably something that is overdue," said Stephen Monteros, vice president of business development and strategic initiatives at SIGMAnet, an Ontario, Calif.-based solution provider and Gold level NetApp partner. "On one end, you've got EMC, who is very aggressive and strong, and on the other side, you have innovative partners out there like Violin [Memory], so they have to do something. They aren't winning on either side against those two, and those two are on opposite ends. When things are not working out, and they haven't been for a little bit, you have to make a change. To make a lasting change, you generally have to start from the top, and it will filter down from there."

Monteros, whose company has been a NetApp partner for the past five years, says he's glad to see the move because he says it is better to do something than "to continue to watch the company deteriorate."

Kurian may not necessarily lead Sunnyvale, Calif.-based NetApp long-term, as the company plans to conduct a CEO search, Nevens said in a statement.

"While we intend to conduct a CEO search, we have the utmost confidence in George's ability to lead the company, given his deep knowledge of NetApp and support from a strong executive team. George has deep relationships with customers and partners globally and is committed to strengthening those relationships going forward. On behalf of the board and everyone at NetApp, I sincerely thank Tom for his many valuable contributions over the past 10 years," Nevens said in the statement.

John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems (IAS), a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider, said it was interesting that Georgens should be leaving NetApp the same day Cisco announced a number of top executives will leave that company.

"It's Bloody Monday in Silicon Valley," Woodall told CRN.

Kurian is an incredibly smart person, and has a very strong presence and charisma, Woodall said. "As head of operations, George has been more aggressive on timelines," he said. "Things coming from NetApp in the near future are coming from him and his teams."

While Georgens has done well at NetApp, it is no surprise that the vendor may be looking for a change in leadership, Woodall said. "As a company, it hasn't been growing its top-line revenue," he said. "You'd expect some changes. But, wow."

The move to oust Georgens is the second executive change for NetApp in less than a week. The company last Thursday grabbed former Brocade channel executive Bill Lipsin to head worldwide channel sales.

Ramin Edmond contributed to this story