Rob Bearden takes over as Cloudera CEO

Cloudera is turning to a familiar face for its next leader.

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Rob Bearden

Credit: Glassdoor

In an announcement after the end of trading, Cloudera announced that current board member Rob Bearden would succeed Marty Cole as CEO. As former CEO of Hortonworks, Bearden is clearly a known quantity and, as a current board member, is well-versed in Cloudera's current direction. Cole, who originally took the Cloudera slot on an interim basis, is retiring.

Bearden's move to Cloudera follows a stint at Docker Inc. where he restructured the company, divesting the enterprise business, and then stabilizing the ship with a fresh $35 million venture round from Benchmark Capital and Insight partners. He is best known for having led Hortonworks prior to its 2018 merger with Cloudera, and in fact, much of the current Cloudera platform (especially the SDX governance and edge offerings) includes products developed at Hortonworks under his watch. At Hortonworks, Bearden led the company through two stock issues, and ultimately stabilized cash flow.

Outgoing CEO Marty Cole took the post on an interim basis, succeeding Tom Reilly who resigned after a disastrous Q1 where the company had to restate its FY20 forecasts. Cole, who came from Accenture, stabilized the ship as the company doubled down on customer renewals and had a successful launch of its new platform. After the company's stock dropped roughly 40% with Reilly's exit, share prices have roughly doubled under Cole's watch.

It included the launch of Cloudera Data Platform, the blended, cloud-oriented successor to the pre-merger Cloudera and Hortonworks offerings. The highlight of CDP was the beginning of a pivot to a cloud-native architecture, with cloud storage gaining the same level of support as HDFS, the incorporation of AI/machine learning capabilities from Cloudera, edge capability from Hortonworks, and the release of SDX, providing a blended data governance offering with significant Hortonworks content.

It has refined its open-source strategy post-merger toward a strategy molded after Red Hat -- that shouldn't be shocking given that Red Hat's Paul Cormier is on the Cloudera board. All existing Apache projects will remain Apache, but future open source offerings from Cloudera will fall under the more restrictive AGPL licensing. And the binaries that put together products liked Shared Data Experience will require a Cloudera subscription.

Cloudera has plenty of ups and downs since the October 2018 Hortonworks merger. Sales dropped post-merger as the customer base was waiting for the next shoe to drop with the future unified offering. The company failed to adequately manage expectations on Wall Street about the trajectory. After Cole took over on an interim basis, the company refocused on renewals and doubled down on the Global 2000. The last two quarters have seen the company beat the street.

In related news, current board member Nicholas Graziano is stepping up to the chairmanship, Graziano is a portfolio manager for Icahn Capital LP, which took out a stake in Cloudera last year.

Given Bearden's involvement on the board, and familiarity with the product and organization, this is probably the smoothest CEO succession that the company could hope for. The company plans no major shifts in direction with Bearden's taking charge.