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Experts look for new Commvault CEO to automate, orchestrate

Experts say new Commvault CEO Sanjay Mirchandani is qualified for his new job, while the vendor still has some challenges to overcome in the face of a competitive, dynamic market.

Backup experts said they expect new Commvault CEO Sanjay Mirchandani to help the data protection and management vendor take greater advantage of automation and containers in its products.

Mirchandani became Commvault CEO on Feb. 5, replacing Bob Hammer, who spent 20 years in the position. Mirchandani previously led Puppet, which sells IT automation tools. Commvault found its new CEO following a seven-month search after Hammer said he would step down.

Mirchandani's arrival at Commvault comes during an interesting time. The data protection market is expanding and innovative, and Commvault is headed down a new path with integrated appliances. The competitive landscape has also changed in recent years with well-funded competitors challenging Commvault and other incumbents.

How leader's experience lines up with new job

During an interview on his first day as Commvault CEO, Mirchandani discussed how his background in DevOps and cloud at Puppet can translate to data protection.

Headshot image of Sanjay MirchandaniSanjay Mirchandani

"The magic isn't only around managing the infrastructure, but also making sure the data generated is not only protected and managed, but is truly driving value and being utilized," he said. "It doesn't mean I have an insurance copy of my data, it means I'm actually using my data for insights or analytics, or automating or orchestrating the capabilities and driving value from that. That's where the magic is."

Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst Christophe Bertrand said he expects Commvault to enhance its archiving, compliance and data management capabilities through automation under Mirchandani.

"As you think about where the market is evolving, how data protection is evolving, it's very obvious to me that a lot more automation is going to come into play -- there's just too much data to deal with," Bertrand said. "Driving business outcomes is going to require some serious automation and autonomy, so it's certainly a plus that Mirchandani understands that aspect of the technology."

Steven Hill, senior analyst at 451 Research, agreed that Mirchandani's experience with automation from Puppet can be put to good use at Commvault.

"There's a growing need for data protection that's as flexible and dynamic as the hybrid cloud itself, and you'd have to look really hard to find a CEO candidate with more depth in cloud-native automation," Hill said.

IDC research director Phil Goodwin said Commvault has the right technology for the current IT transition, but must also develop the correct strategy.

"Mirchandani's real focus should be how to reposition Commvault's products for the future," he said. "Cloud is good, but it's not enough. Other future hot areas are going to be backing up SaaS applications, containers, IoT devices and NoSQL data types. The question is, can Commvault target the right segments and dominate them from a market perspective?"

Goodwin added that Commvault could stand to increase its presence among cloud providers.

"They have very strong cloud technology, but they don't have the legions of cloud service providers using their product to take it to market," he said. "Compared to their competitors, they have a rather nascent cloud service provider ecosystem."

What the near future looks like for Commvault

Headshot image of Bob HammerBob Hammer

The new Commvault CEO is not expected to make sweeping changes right away in his new position. Bertrand said he expects Commvault to continue with the strategy that Hammer put in place the last 18 months or so of selling integrated appliances that combine data protection and management. That is the road successful newcomers Rubrik and Cohesity have taken to make a splash in the market and gain the attention of established vendors.

"Right now, the market is very dynamic, with a lot of competition, thanks to a number of newer entrants in the market," Bertrand said. "I believe Commvault has to continue to deliver on their product roadmap, continue focusing on the appliance business they are building up, and focus on cloud.

"In time, I'm sure there will be an opportunity for Mirchandani to insert himself and plan for whatever happens next."

With Hammer and COO Al Bunte departing after 20 years at Commvault, new management has a clean slate to remake the company.

It looks to me like the company is taking some pretty strong steps toward refreshing the organization and taking a look towards the next chapter of the company.
Phil Goodwinresearch director, IDC

"What interested me was the degree to which we're getting a full turnover of senior management at Commvault," Goodwin said. "Both senior leaders of the organization are stepping back. If you look at the directors on their website now compared to a year ago, it's very different. It looks to me like the company is taking some pretty strong steps toward refreshing the organization and taking a look towards the next chapter of the company."

The fresh approach may be welcome, considering how technology has changed since Commvault's birth in 1988 inside of Bell Labs.

"When they came to market in the late '90s and early 2000s, they did Windows backup better than anyone else," Goodwin said. "But we've moved beyond that now, into the third platform era, which is really characterized by virtual infrastructure. And I think any of the large legacy backup vendors have that same challenge."

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