Tech Job Watch Nov 17 2010

Data Storage Job Market Heats Up

By john shinal

The computer storage market has heated up again, and that's good news for technology workers with storage experience.

Startup storage companies are growing fast. Within the past two weeks, three of them completed new funding rounds. All three -- Gluster, Nirvanix and Zetta -- are hiring experienced engineers.

"Storage hasn't been sexy for a while. Now, all of a sudden, it's hot again," said Peter Clarke, an executive recruiter in the Menlo Park, Calif., office of Heidrick & Struggles who helps startup companies find top-level talent.

And the hiring binge isn't limited to startups. Large storage companies are also on the hunt for engineers with storage experience.

Industry giant EMC Corp. has more than 500 U.S. jobs for hardware, software and systems engineers, as well as other IT staff, listed on its own careers page. NetApp, another leading storage system provider, has 178 U.S. job listings for similar positions.

This week, EMC agreed to acquire Isilon Systems, a smaller storage company, for $2.25 billion, largely to pick up technology and talent that it didn't already have.

That deal followed a bidding war between Hewlett-Packard and Dell for storage maker 3Par.

The acquisition activity – and the funding announcements -- confirm what we've been hearing for a while now -- that storage companies are expanding and hiring at a rapid clip.

That's a marked change from several years ago, when the storage market was a largely static one dominated by EMC, with NetApp as its main stand-alone rival while H-P and Dell dipped their toes in the business.

Trends Driving Storage Needs

Then several technology trends came along that forced a rethinking of storage strategies at large companies, which also were being required by regulators to store far more data than before.

One of those trends was the shift toward cloud computing, which offered enterprises the chance to store data remotely over the Internet, rather than on their own data servers, significantly cutting storage costs.

Another was the rise of open source software tools and applications, such as Hadoop and MySQL, which make it easier to develop, upgrade and manage data sytems.

One startup that's taking advantage of open source is Gluster, of Milpitas, Calif. The company raised an $8.5 million funding round last week and is looking to hire engineers with enterprise storage experience who can also develop in open source environments.

"Our customers are looking at storage in a whole new way," said Gluster CEO Ben Golub. "They've got compliance issues, integration issues -- they've got enormous amounts of data to store. So now storage is sexy again."

Zetta, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based storage startup focused on instant data recovery, among other features, also raised a funding round last week, pulling in $11.5 million. Nirvanix, based in San Diego, raised a $10 million funding round and named a new CEO last week. Both are hiring engineers.

Cleversafe, based in Chicago, is also hiring engineers with storage experience. So is StoredIQ, an Austin, Texas-based startup that has partnerships with Dell and security software maker Symantec. It's expanding its staff by 50% after raising a funding round last month.

The company is being aggressive in filling out its top ranks of engineers and sales staff, according to StoredIQ CEO Phil Myers.

"If you want top talent, you have to be willing to pay above market rate for it," Myers said.

Write to John Shinal

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