Dave Wright, founder and CEO of SolidFire when that company was acquired by NetApp, signaled his return from sabbatical Wednesday by running across the stage in response to a call for a stagehand to unveil the latest product based on SolidFire technology.
Wright, who helped engineer NetApp's 2016 acquisition of SolidFire, in April left the company on a sabbatical.
— Dale Degen (@degen_dale) October 4, 2017
He made his surprise reappearance at the NetApp Insight 2017 conference during a Wednesday keynote introducing the pending availability of the new NetApp HCI hyper-converged infrastructure appliance which was built in large part on SolidFire all-flash storage technology.
When the NetApp HCI presenter asked for a stagehand to help pull the covers off a rack full of NetApp HCI appliances, Wright dashed from the left of the stage, stopped in the center, waved at the audience, and then dashed to the right of the stage to pull the cover off. He then pointed at the rack, smiled, and left the stage.
A NetApp spokesperson declined to respond to a request for more information, other than to confirm that Wright had indeed returned from sabbatical and that he will be acting as an evangelist for the company's SolidFire technology going forward.
NetApp partners were excited that Wright has returned to the company.
— John Rollason (@JohnRollason) October 4, 2017
SolidFire was an amazing acquisition for NetApp, but one that initially left a lot of people skeptical, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and long-time NetApp channel partner.
Wright didn't really need to return to NetApp, but the fact that he did speaks volumes about his dedication to what the company is doing with his technology, Woodall told CRN.
"He made enough money from the acquisition, and didn't need to come back," he said. "But this was his baby. He sees the value in it. And NetApp also sees the value by bringing it into a wide range of products."
Wright's return shows he is passionate about the SolidFire technology, Woodall said. "His coming back says, 'What's going on here is worth my time,'" he said. "It's just like with [NetApp Co-founder and Executive Vice President] Dave Hitz, who is still with the company after 27 years. Dave Wright is saying he wants to be involved."
Glenn Dekhayser, field chief technology officer at Red8, a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based solution provider and NetApp channel partner, told CRN that, even though it was understood that Wright would only temporarily step away from NetApp, his first thought on seeing Wright run across the stage was, "Wow, Dave Wright's back at NetApp?"
"Given the increased prominence of the SolidFire platform in the NetApp go-to-market strategy, I'd say this is the perfect time for him to get back in front," Dekhayser said.