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Turnaround specialist Walsh takes over IBM storage

IBM is bringing in industry veteran Ed Walsh to try to light a fire under its struggling storage division.

Walsh will take over as general manager of IBM Storage and Software Defined Infrastructure on July 11. He joins IBM from Catalogic Software, where he was CEO since 2014.

Walsh worked for IBM Storage from 2010-13 and has been CEO of four storage startups. Walsh became CEO of Catalogic nine months after it spun out of Syncsort. Under Walsh, Catalogic has broadened the storage arrays it supports – adding support for IBM and EMC systems to go with its original NetApp support.

An e- mail from an IBM spokesperson referred to Wash as a “change agent” and noted his “ability to drive transformation and lead teams to embrace a new direction.” Walsh is expected to try and rally IBM’s storage business around its FlashSystem all-flash platform, Spectrum storage software and its Cleversafe object storage acquisition.

Walsh faces a different type of challenge at IBM than he is used to. He is considered a turnaround specialist of startups, and his tenure usually ends with a sale to a larger vendor. At IBM he will be tasked with waking a sleeping giant and he will more likely be buying companies instead of selling his.

IBM’s storage revenue has declined in each of the last four years, dropping from $3.7 billion in 2011 to $2.4 billion in 2015. Its storage hardware revenue was $433.5 million in the first quarter of this year, down 6% year over year.

According to IDC, IBM stood fifth behind EMC, NetApp, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Hitachi in networked storage sales in the first quarter with 7.9% market share. IBM’s full year 2015 market share was 10%, according to IDC.

IBM has fared better in the all-flash market, ranking second by IDC for 2015. However, IDC put IBM’s first quarter all-flash revenue at $67.4 million, up 54% in a market that grew 87.4%. IBM ranked fifth in all-flash revenue for the first quarter behind EMC, NetApp, Pure Storage and HPE on IDC’s list.

Walsh was IBM’s vice president in storage in charge of marketing and strategy after selling primary data compression vendor Storwize to Big Blue in 2010. Walsh was also CEO of data deduplication pioneer Avamar from 2005 until selling the company to EMC in November of 2006. He stayed with EMC to run the Avamar division until February 2007. He was CEO of server virtualization startup Virtual Iron from 2009 until selling that company to Oracle in 2010.

Walsh was also VP of sales, marketing and alliance for Fibre Channel switch vendor CNT Technologies from 2001 to 2005.

Walsh replaces Greg Lotko, who held the GM job on an interim basis and will becomes vice president of development for IBM Storage.

Catalogic today named Ken Barth as its CEO to replace Walsh. Barth has been on the Catalogic board since the 2013 spinout. He was CEO of storage resource management vendor TekTools from 1996-2010 until SolarWinds acquired TekTools.

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