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By | Chris Mellor 14th December 2009 21:20

Data Robotics names new CEO

Drobo maker co-founder replaced

Data Robotics has hired Tom Buiocchi as its new CEO, replacing founder Geoff Barrall.

Data Robotics produces the Drobo products, data robots that provide multi-drive external storage. Almost 100,000 Drobos have been sold, and founder Geoff Barral has been its CEO since 2005.

Tom Buiocchi's last executive business role was at Brocade, where he was VP for world-wide marketing. Since leaving Brocade, he has had consultancy roles, being an executive in residence at Mohr Davidow Ventures, consulting with portfolio companies and assessing investment opportunities in the enterprise and data center technology markets.

It looks like Geoff Barrall has been dumped. Buiocchi said: "I am thrilled to join the company and look forward to building on the vision and innovation that Geoff brought to Data Robotics."

Board chairman Aneel Bhusri said: "Geoff has done a tremendous job creating an exciting, dynamic company which is approaching 100,000 units sold and is on track for continued growth. The board is very appreciative of his achievement." That really sounds like "Thank you and good night."

Bhusri went on to say: "Tom's appointment as CEO marks an important milestone for Data Robotics. His competitive nature underlies his proven track record of building successful organizations and delivering strong growth, both of which will be critical in bringing Data Robotics to the next level of success."

Barrall founded and led BlueArc to success as a hardware-accelerated NAS supplier. So there seems no reason not to suppose that he has a competitive nature, a proven track record of "building successful organizations and delivering strong growth." So why is Buiocchi needed? We must surely ask that question since Buiocchi has not been a CEO of a company before and therefore has no track record at CEO level. Data Robotics' board is taking quite a gamble in not appointing a seasoned CEO.

We met Barrall within the last two months and there was no mention of any CEO-level change. He commented on a recent $10m E-round of funding, saying it was good to have extra cash for business development. That round brought in a new investor to Data Robotics: Focus Ventures.

There is an interesting connection between Barrall and Buiocchi's previous employer, Brocade. Barrall is an executive consultant to the executive team at Brocade. He also sat on the board of advisors for Data Domain, and he sits on the advisory boards for NeoPath and Nexsan.

We're told by a Drobo spokesperson that Barrall is: "Still working at Data Robotics. He's still on the payroll." But the spokesperson couldn't or wouldn't say why the CEO change has been made or what Barrall's working responsibilities are. The Data Robotics release makes no mention of any role for Barrall at Data Robotics or offers of best wishes for his future, which leads us to suppose that there could have been contention over some issue which has led to his replacement. If he was going to step back and be active at a board advisory level with other companies, surely the statement would have said that.

Buiocchi started work as CEO today and will probably be available to comment on his appointment in the new year. ®

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