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ProStor lands HP vet to run archiving business

ProStor's new CEO will concentrate on expanding the startup's archive systems business, while his predecessor runs the OEM-focused removable drive business.

ProStor Systems Inc. switched CEOs this week, naming Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. veteran Frank Harbist to replace founder Steve Georgis as the removable disk startup seeks to expand its systems business.

Georgis will stay on to run the Boulder, Colo.-based startup's OEM-focused RDX business, which is sold by Dell Inc., HP, IBM Corp. and others. Harbist will concentrate on the InfiniVault archiving system, which consists of RDX removable disk along with internal disk cache and software that migrates data between the two tiers.

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Harbist says an upgrade to InfiniVault is due in a few months. He says the short-term goal is to tailor the product for specific vertical markets -- ProStor launched a DICOM version for health care last November -- and eventually expand to a cloud model for service providers.

"We'll take its data management and compliance capabilities and tweak them to horizontals," says Harbist.

Georgis, who worked for one of ProStor's venture capital (VC) firms, Boulder Ventures, before starting the company, says the CEO change came about because the startup is entering a new phase. "There's a different set of skills required when you're a startup figuring out how to go to market on day one than when you're building and scaling the business," he says. "My background is a serial entrepreneur, and I'm better at early startups. Frank is a seasoned executive who has scaled up different types of businesses."

Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at Stillwater, Minn.-based StorageIO Group, says the InfiniVault part of the business faces the greater challenge. ProStor is in a strong position in the OEM segment, with the major server vendors selling RDX-based products. But InfiniVault faces a wide range of archiving competitors.

"ProStor's known for removable media and has a lot of traction there," says Schulz. "They're not as well known for archiving and compliance. That's a potentially more lucrative market, but there's a higher barrier to entry. Now they've got to compete with bigger players, including EMC [Corp.]."

Harbist says the revenue generated by the OEM business will help fund InfiniVault development, although he expects to have to seek more VC funding late this year or in early 2010. ProStor previously raised $23.4 million from VCs, but funding is harder to come by for startups these days.

"This isn't your typical startup where there's a lot of investment needed on future return," says Harbist. "We have a stable foundation, and the business is growing."

Harbist spent 21 years with HP, including a stint as vice president of HP's Nearline Storage Division.

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