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NetApp Hires Former Intel, Lenovo Exec To Manage Its Largest Business Unit

Kim Stevenson, who is now helping manage the Foundational Data Services business unit, tells CRN her team is second to none in terms of storage technology and talent and will enable her to focus on her real value for NetApp, which is her industry experience on the operations side.

NetApp this week said it has hired Kim Stevenson to help manage the storage vendor's Foundational Data Services business unit, which is the largest in the company.

Stevenson, a former Lenovo and Intel executive, is now the new senior vice president and general manager of NetApp's Foundational Data Services business unit, which includes the company's FAS and AFA SAN products, NAS systems and FlexPod business.

Stevenson reports to Brad Anderson, executive vice president and general manager of NetApp's Cloud Infrastructure and Storage, Systems and Software business units, who unveiled her hiring in a blog post earlier this week.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: NetApp CEO George Kurian On Keystone, Clouds And Competition]

Prior to joining NetApp, Stevenson spent about 20 months as senior vice president and general manager of data center products and solutions at Lenovo until her departure in 2018. Prior to that, she spent seven and a half years at Intel, eventually becoming chief operating officer for the Client, Internet of Things, and System Architecture Group. She was also chief information officer at Intel for nearly five years.

After leaving Lenovo, Stevenson sat on the board of directors at a number of IT startups and was also a strategy adviser for some.

Stevenson's new role includes the business side of what Joel Reich, former executive vice president of NetApp's Storage Systems and Software business unit, did before he left the company last August.

Stevenson told CRN that her direct experience in the storage industry before joining NetApp was limited.

"One of the first things I concluded when I joined Lenovo was that we needed storage," she said. "We were OEMing some low-end storage. But I became the executive sponsor of the NetApp OEM relationship at Lenovo. And in some countries, NetApp is the leading storage vendor because of Lenovo."

Stevenson, who said her team is second to none in terms of storage technology and talent, lets her focus on her real value for NetApp, which is her industry experience on the operations side. In her role, she is stepping in to manage the business challenges that customers expect NetApp to help them solve.

One of her focuses will be to make sure NetApp's storage technology meets the requirements of the new applications and new workloads businesses are adopting, Stevenson said.

"In the past, NetApp has been successful because of the work it did with application providers," she said. "For instance, NetApp built very simple network storage devices to make EDA [electronic design automation] applications and workloads better. Today, the need is focused on 5G. Storage will need to work with new applications even closer to get the required performance."

Stevenson, while noting that she is only two weeks into her new role, said she already has a three-stage, 90-day plan for what she wants to do with NetApp. The first and current stage is listening and assessing what NetApp needs. "The good, the bad and the ugly," she said.

The second stage will be testing of hypotheses she develops from her first 30 days at the company, while the third stage will be looking at any necessary changes. "I will start from the solution and application layer down to the infrastructure, and [the] customer experience as well," she said.

While Stevenson is not directly working with channel partners, she said a lot of what she does will have a big impactson NetApp's channel business.

"I focus on relationships on the vendor side," she said. "If there is a new application, we have to work with the developer to make sure it works. And we have to make sure all our products are channel-ready. Just look at our new C190, which has a lower price band and simple configuration. We are enabling channel partners with speed of execution and fulfillment as the channel shifts from general-purpose computing to purpose-built computing. And the 'C' in C190 stands for 'channel.'"

The hiring of Stevenson is a significant move for NetApp given the importance of NetApp's Foundational Data Services business unit, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp channel partner.

Woodall told CRN he has yet to meet Stevenson but from what he has seen she brings impressive references to NetApp, including a solid mix of hardware and software experience and a “good Rolodex.”

"And now she's running a business unit at NetApp," he said. "I see NetApp here bringing in an experienced exec who knows how to get things done."

Stevenson's arrival at NetApp should have an additional impact on the company in that it will let investors know that NetApp can hire great talent, Woodall said.

NetApp in the past year has seen the departure of a several important executives such as Reich and Tom Mendoza, the company's former vice chairman and sales leader, combined with a couple of quarters that financially did not look good, he said.

"There are concerns in Wall Street about whether NetApp can attract top executive talent with good histories," he said. "Kim answers that question. I'll be interested in seeing how she'll do. But I'm excited to see NetApp attract someone of her caliber."

NetApp's issues are primarily operational, and that makes Stevenson a great person for the company to bring in, Woodall said.

"It's about execution," he said. "NetApp has great technologists falling out of the woodwork, and doesn't need more developers. NetApp needs to execute. There are probably expectations that she can make that happen. This sounds like a really good hire. I'm happy to see it."

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