Over the past 13 years as CEO of Network Appliance, Dan Warmenhoven has overseen the company's growth from a small startup to one of the key players in the highly competitive data storage market. Warmenhoven recently sat down with eWEEK Senior Writer Chris Preimesberger to talk about NetApp's past and future.
Congratulations on your 13th anniversary as CEO of NetApp. That's an eternity in the IT world-in fact, most enterprises in general.
I've been CEO ever since I came to NetApp in October 1994 after working for IBM and [Hewlett-Packard] and serving as the CEO of another company called Network Equipment Co. At NetApp, we now have about 6,900 employees. When I started, it was 45 employees, and the quarter was about $3 million in revenue. This quarter, were forecasting somewhere north of $750 million in revenue, with almost 7,000 employees. So its been a pretty good run so far.
What do you see as your greatest accomplishment in your time at NetApp?
That this company is number six on the "Great Places to Work" list. We've participated in the "Great Places to Work" survey, which is conducted by the Great Places to Work Institute and published by Fortune, for five years. Thousands of companies participate. For the last five years we've been in the Top 100; this last year, number 6.
People like it here. Its an exciting company. Its fast-paced; this is not a country club. Its not as though we earned our way to number six through perks like on-site massages and stuff. People work hard here, but they really enjoy it. They feel like they're appreciated, they have the freedom to pursue their objectives the way they feel they should. There's a lot of collaboration, not a lot of infighting-a totally apolitical environment. Ask anybody, and they'll say this is good, this is fun.
To read about NetApp's suit against Sun over the WAFL file system, click here.
We've had tremendous success in terms of putting the company on the map, identifying a market strategy. ... The investor community has done well-the company was valued at about $40 million when I joined and its now worth about $10 billion or $11 billion. It's got an enormous compound annual growth rate.
What are the key reasons for that kind of growth and success?
A lot of it's luck, and a lot of skill. It's a combination of the two. I think we've identified a trend in the market that we've been able to expand upon since the company was founded back in 1992.
It was in the mid-'90s that the two storage networking technologies, SAN [storage area network] and NAS [network attached storage], both started to come about. We were one of the pioneers of the NAS world. While people think it was a technology play, it was really an opportunity to develop a pure-play company. Once you disassociate servers and storage into separate styles of computing infrastructure, you had the opportunity to create a pure-play company that could be just a storage provider.
Our belief was that would have significant value over just disks attached to servers. The initial play was, well, that we could build a better file server. We said, "Don't use your general-purpose computer as a file server." But it expanded from that very quickly to, "Storage is a large portion of the IT spend." It happens to be the only component that has any state, meaning its content is permanent, and therefore has real value in the customers eyes.
Page 2: NetApp's Past and Future