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Slootman leaves as EMC backup boss for Greylock VC firm

Today marked the end of an era in storage when Frank Slootman stepped down as president of EMC’s Backup Recovery Systems (BRS) division to join Greylock Partners venture capitalist firm as a partner.

EMC veteran William “BJ” Jenkins will replace Slootman. Jenkins has spent 13 years at EMC, and was chief of staff of BRS under Slootman. EMC said Slootman will retain a formal role with the company as an adviser.

Slootman’s tenure at EMC was relatively short but loud, as he took the lead in EMC’s backup division after it acquired Data Domain for $2.1 billion in July of 2009. Slootman remained outspoken after the deal and EMC’s backup revenue grew substantially during his tenure, but it was his time as Data Domain CEO when he really made a mark on the backup world.

When Slootman joined Data Domain in 2003, disk-based backup was in its infancy and nobody was talking about data deduplication. Now disk has pushed tape most into an archiving role, deduplication is a mainstream technology that is considered a must-have for all new backup products and EMC’s Data Domain platform is the market leader. Slootman also led Data Domain through a successful IPO in 2007 that led to a 2009 bidding war between EMC and NetApp, a precursor of the Hewlett-Packard and Dell competition for 3PAR last year.

In a blog posted on Greylock’s website today called “Why I’m joining Greylock Partners,” Slootman said he left EMC because he needed a new challenge. “I was tempted and flattered by interest to run other companies, but I could not easily see topping the experience of Data Domain,” he wrote.

Greylock was an early investor in Data Domain. Another Greylock partner, Aneel Bhusri, was Data Domain’s chairman at the time of the sale to EMC. Greylock remains active in storage, and is an investor in Actifio, Data Robotics, SilverPeak System, Xsigo and stealth Flash storage startup Pure Storage. It’s real gems, however, are Internet companies Facebook, Groupon and LinkedIn.

According to Greylock’s press release today, “Slootman will invest in data center infrastructure start-ups, particularly in the virtualization, networking, storage, cloud and enterprise application sectors. He will also coach and mentor up-and-coming entrepreneurs and executives.”

Slootman also compared his new job as going from a player to a coach in his blog. “I’d like to think I have learned enough lessons about building companies to provide valuable coaching and guidance to up-and-coming entrepreneurs,” he wrote.

Of course, a lot of players can’t stay on the sidelines and a lot of entrepreneurs fall into the category of serial entrepreneurs. Will Slootman get the itch to run another company?

“Never say never,” he replied in an email today when I asked him that.

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