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By | Chris Mellor 13th January 2012 09:42

Gridstore shafts rival Overland over a Barrall

CTO exits to take exec chairman job

Overland Storage has lost its guiding technology visionary, Geoff Barrall, to a stealthy startup and an exec chairman role at rival Gridstore.

Gridstore produces grid-based scale-out filer storage for small and medium business (SMB). At Gridstore Barrall replaces now ex-chairman Dr Chris Horn, the co-founder of Iona Technologies, and will be supervising, if that's the right word, co-founder and CEO Kelly Murphy. The company, seeing the landing of Barrall as a validation of its technology, states: "Barrall will play an integral role as Gridstore continues to set the standard for a new generation of scale-out NAS."

Barrall said:

I've been looking at scale-out storage solutions for many years and every product has been fraught with low performance and high cost caused by the clustering model that has been universally used.

When I was introduced to Gridstore my first thought was: "Here is a company that finally has it right." Its simple, elegant design allows for a much higher level of performance and scale than cluster-based solutions, while requiring a fraction of their cost to maintain. I'm excited to join Gridstore's team as the company actually delivers the promised benefits of scale-out storage to the market.

Barrall then tweeted: "Very excited to be joining Gridstore as Chairman. Fantastic team and exactly the right approach to Scale Out storage."

At Overland Barrall oversaw the introduction of the scale-out SnapServers last October, with Drobo-style dynamic volume resizing and RAID. He quit a month later.

Interestingly, Overland had acquired the clustering assets of MaxiScale and we can expect scale-out SnapServers based on MaxiScale clustering - the technology for scale-out that Barrall has apparently rejected by joining GridStore, an Overland competitor, and espousing a grid-based approach. Oops.

The two MaxiScale founders used to work for Barrall at BlueArc, the hardware-assisted enterprise NAS company which he founded in November 1998, left in May 2001, and which was subsequently bought by HDS in September last year.

Between BlueArc and Overland Barrall founded DataRobotics, in April 2005, which invented and sold the data robot or Drobo product, a classy-looking and superbly easy-to-use home and small business external file storage box with brilliantly-conceived RAID-style protection. He left Data Robotics, now Drobo, at the end of 2009 and joined Overland in March 2010, being part of the new executive blood recruited persuasively by CEO Eric Kelly in his turn-around initiative at the company.

Turning to the stealthy start-up, Barrall's LinkedIn page says he is the CEO of Connected Data, a "startup still in stealth mode". John Turner, the now ex-director of software engineering at Overland has joined him. He also worked with Barrall at Data Robotics. Joel Feaster is listed on LinkedIn as a senior software engineer at Connected Data, joining from Overland. Kelly can not be best pleased at this loss of talent.

Overland's Kelly said in a statement:

Geoff is a serial entrepreneur with a track record in storage innovation. During his time at Overland he played a key role in the acquisition of MaxiScale and the development of the SnapServer DX series of network attached storage solutions. He also led the engineering team that is currently developing our scale-up/scale-out storage strategy with the integration of MaxiScale technology into our product roadmap.

Geoff has accomplished what we needed him to do at Overland and is now seeking new challenges. He leaves us on the very best of terms and we all wish him well on his next venture.

Departed John Turner has been replaced at Overland by Trevor Heathorn, who becomes engineering VP. Kelly said: "He joined Overland from MaxiScale where he was head of software development and was responsible for managing the delivery of file server and clustering management software for scalable Web storage platforms. He has also served as director of software engineering at BlueArc where he managed the software team for BlueArc’s ... responsible for the development of High Availability clustering."

Heathorn had also been VP at Quantum for its Snap storage division in the past and so knows both Snap Servers and MaxiScale.

Overland will carry on, recruit replacement talent and continue its strategy. People come, people go; they look after their careers, that's life in business. Barrall will probably bring Connected Data to business viability snd then move on; that seems to be the pattern of his entrepreneurial existence, the grass after a few years being greener in the next field, and the next, and the next...

Overland's latest results show good progress in revenue and expenses terms and the BDT lawsuit is winding to its oft-delayed conclusion with the signs looking positive for the company. ®

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