NetApp CEO Georgens back in Wichita to visit Engenio

Tom Georgens was back in town Tuesday talking to the former employees of LSI who are now employees of his company, NetApp.

NetApp, one of the world's largest makers of storage systems, bought LSI's Engenio Storage Systems business three months ago for $480 million. For Wichita, that means the research and development facility at 37th and Rock Road — home to hundreds of engineers and technicians — changes hands again. It started out as a plant for NCR in the early 1970s, and NetApp will become the facility's fifth owner.

Georgens, 51, has been president and CEO of NetApp since 2009 after holding several other positions there. He joined NetApp after running LSI's Engenio division until 2005. He spent 4 1/2 years at the Wichita facility in the 1990s.

He stopped to answer a few questions during his visit to Wichita:

Why did NetApp buy Engenio?

"NetApp has a big business with the federal government and various different agencies and what they are telling us is they are seeing a set of requirements emerging for storage performance that aren't going to get met with traditional storage products.... One of the examples is full-motion video. The amount of data that is actually coming off these is staggeringly big and something needs to take all this data in.

"And the other thing is that they also had a big business with the server OEMs — IBM, Teradata, Oracle — which were hard for us to get to, so it expanded our channels, and also brought us new technology."

Any changes in store for the Wichita facility?

"Not really.... This is a stand-alone business, so the ongoing health of it is important to us. As far as Wichita is concerned, I think we are still expanding here. I know we've hired some. It's not a staggering number — I think we've hired 10 people — but we've got open (positions) still.

"I know that the prior company dissolved manufacturing here and outsourced it. We don't intend on reversing that. In fact our model is the same. I think the primary role here is around marketing, it's around engineering and customer support, and that I don't see changing."

Did your previous time with Engenio make you more interested in the deal?

"Yes and no.... I didn't oppose it, but somebody else drove it. What happened with me is that I had a lot of confidence in this team. It's one of the most mature storage development teams in the world. I knew the team was solid, it was just a question of the economics."

You've been named the most innovative and best place to work. How do maintain that?

"The company believed from day one that technologies will change, strategies will change, but culture is a long-term sustainable differentiator. ... What people want to hear about initially is what kind of perks do you have. We don't have pet massages, we don't have free food, we don't even have walled offices — everybody including me is in a cube. It's really a whole bunch of little things.

"We have a saying at NetApp: 'Catch somebody doing something right.' What will happen is they'll see AnnaMarie over there and say she's doing a good job and send me an e-mail, and I'll send an e-mail or call her up and say, 'Hey, AnnaMarie, I heard what you're doing. Thanks a lot.' Fifteen seconds can make a huge impact on people.

"Make no mistake, public companies exist for only one reason: to make profits for shareholders. But paying attention to culture and building a great team is how we build profits for shareholders. They are compatible.''