Former head of HDS to head up HP's storage business

HP looked outside its walls for a new head for its storage division, appointing the former CEO of partner and sometime rival HDS

In its quest to re-energize its storage business, Hewlett-Packard has recruited the former president and CEO of storage rival Hitachi Data Systems (HDS).

Dave Roberson resigned from HDS Friday and will join HP on Wednesday as the company's new senior vice president and general manager in charge of its HP StorageWorks enterprise storage business. He will take over from Bob Schultz who has been juggling two jobs since January when he was appointed senior vice president and general manager of a new HP business unit, its enterprise server and storage software organization.

As of Friday, Chief Operating Officer Minoru Kosuge has been promoted to HDS CEO and Jack Domme, executive vice president of global solutions strategy and development, has become COO, according to a company spokeswoman.

"While we will miss Dave, we are very pleased to see Dave in his new role at HP," the spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail. "HP and Hitachi have been long-standing partners for many years, collaborating in areas ranging from personal computers to storage solutions. As Hitachi and HP are always looking for ways to enhance and expand the current strategic business relationship, Dave's presence at HP will most certainly enable us to further build and strengthen an already strong partnership and take it to new heights."

HP has an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) deal in place with the parent company of HDS, Hitachi, whereby HP rebadges Hitachi's high-end TagmaStore storage equipment. At the same time, HP and HDS are competitors in the storage market.

Roberson had been at HDS for 26 years and became president and CEO of the business in April 2006. Among his achievements while at the vendor were helping to build up HDS's worldwide channel and developing key business partnerships. HDS has reseller agreements for Hitachi storage hardware with a number of vendors, notably Sun Microsystems.

"It's too bad for HDS; they've lost a good resource," said Greg Schulz, senior analyst and founder of StorageIO Group. "It's good news for HP." He sees Roberson as a positive addition to HP, someone who's a businessman, not a technologist or a person focused on marketing. "It'll be interesting to see if he can get the business back on track," he added. What HP needs is to get the storage hardware, software and services elements of its business "all headed in a common direction," Schulz said.

HP's recruitment of Roberson is similar to EMC's move during 2002 and 2003 when it hired away a trio of HP's top storage talent in the persons of Mark Lewis, Howard Elias and Mark Sorenson, Schulz said.

HP is partway through a massive restructuring of its operations spearheaded by company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd who joined the vendor in 2005. The intention is to end up with a leaner, meaner, more focused HP that's better able to compete in the market. Those efforts have already paid off in stronger sales of the vendor's servers, but HP's storage business isn't growing as fast as Hurd would like.

In February, Hurd said publicly that HP needed to do a better job in broadening its storage selling efforts and should take on more storage sales specialists. In each of the last few fiscal quarters, HP's storage business has only grown in the low single digits. HP's primary storage competitors include EMC and IBM.

Some key areas HP needs to work on in its storage operations are its NAS (network attached storage) products, its storage management software and beefing up its backup and recovery offerings, according to Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates.

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