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Panasas, Parascale Shuffle CEOs For Growth

The CEO Shuffle is in full force in the IT infrastructure industry. Geoff Barrall, founder and CEO of Data Robotics, recently stepped aside for Tom Buiocchi, and  Alex Bakman of VKernel shifted to CTO, bringing in Doug McNary. Now  Panasas and ParaScale are replacing their CEOs with industry veterans. The message is clear: The economy is improving, and investors want their portfolio companies to begin growing again.

For more thoughts on the startup growth process, see my related article, “The CEO Shuffle

Scaling Out

Panasas, of Fremont, CA, is a provider of network-attached storage (NAS) systems and was founded in 1999 by the legendary Garth Gibson, known as the father of RAID. ParaScale, right down the road in Cupertino, sells a cloud storage software layer and was started five years later by  Cameron Bahar of Scale8 and Teradata.

Both of these companies are in the scale-out business, enabling massive file storage systems for the largest applications. Panasas is more traditional, relying on NAS protocols and a clustered file system for conventional applications. ParaScale stepped into the cloud storage territory, combining Linux-based storage nodes into a file store with HTTP, NFS, FTP, and WebDAV accessibility.

The two companies have also seen key competitors scooped up in the last year: Panasas shared the scale-out NAS market with  IBRIX (now HP), Exanet (now Dell), and  ONStor (now LSI). Earlier this month, ParaScale watched Bycast go to NetApp.

Panasas Names Pairman

Panasas has named Faye Pairman, formerly of 3ware and AMCC, to replace  Randy Strahan as CEO. Although Strahan held that position for years, the Register suggests he was a bench warmer brought in by investors,  Mohr, Davidow Ventures. The Pairman press release supports this, calling Strahan “interim CEO,” though that term was not previously used by the company.

With IBRIX, Exanet, and ONStor gone, the scale-out NAS musical chairs game is winding down. IBM has its own scale-out NAS offering, SONAS, which is based on their GPFS technology. Symantec released FileStore, their own  scale-out NAS product, in October of 2009. HP seems happier with IBRIX than they were with PolyServe, and Dell and LSI won’t likely need any more technology. NAS leader, NetApp, has finally integrated the scale-out technology they acquired way back in 2003 from Spinnaker, and EMC is busy integrating their Celerra NAS and Clariion SAN lines. Perhaps the new SGI or Oracle-nee-Sun are shopping?

But perhaps Panasas has an IPO in mind instead. They claim profitability, and that market is beginning to heat up! And the market is kinder now – witness this quarter’s success for public scale-out NAS vendor Isilon (NASDAQ:ISLN).

ParaScale Gets Fehrnstrom

ParaScale has made no official announcement as of yet regarding their CEO change, the company’s web site shows that Sajai Krishnan is no longer CEO. His replacement is Ken Fehrnstrom, who is said to have managed “business development activities inclusive of acquisitions, equity investments, divestiture of non-core business assets, and partnership programs” at Ascend Communications. Interestingly, the ParaScale bio omits that Fehrnstrom is also the  former President and COO of managed storage provider StorageNetworks, a prototype for today’s cloud storage service providers.

Beth Winkowski, ParaScale’s PR contact, confirmed the change in leadership in an email message:

ParaScale has appointed a new CEO, Ken Fehrnstrom, for the next stage of its  growth. As ParaScale gains market traction, Ken as a multi-time CEO, stands  ready to rapidly scale the business.

Sajai cultivated industry-leading recognition for ParaScale in record time,  delivered its first product to market and seen it through several  significant new releases, and earned the confidence of many brand-name  customers and partners.  He has served as CEO for nearly two years.  Sajai  has assisted Ken in his transition before leaving the company.

Note: We initially overlooked the mention of Fehrnstrom’s StorageNetworks tenure in the ParaScale bio. It is, in fact, mentioned there.

About the author

Stephen Foskett

Stephen Foskett is an active participant in the world of enterprise information technology, currently focusing on enterprise storage, server virtualization, networking, and cloud computing. He organizes the popular Tech Field Day event series for Gestalt IT and runs Foskett Services. A long-time voice in the storage industry, Stephen has authored numerous articles for industry publications, and is a popular presenter at industry events. He can be found online at TechFieldDay.com, blog.FoskettS.net, and on Twitter at @SFoskett.

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