The rebirth of Quantum

Manoeuvring through the labyrinth of storage solutions is a tortuous road but Rick Belluzzo is determined to overcome all odds.

Manoeuvring through the labyrinth of storage solutions is a tortuous road but Rick Belluzzo is determined to overcome all odds.

After all, Quantum's chairman and CEO is used to being in the hot seat.

He's well remembered for walking away from Hewlett-Packard--where he spent about 23 years in numerous profiles--despite being tipped as a future successor. His subsequent tenure at Silicon Graphics lasted less than two years before Microsoft came knocking in September 1999.

He held various high-level positions at the software behemoth, including president and chief operating officer, but his stint at the company came to an abrupt end three years later. The official word is the parting was amicable but insiders in Redmond believe those closest to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates felt threatened by Belluzzo, and they acted on their insecurities.

Recently, he made headlines again when his name was linked to the top job at HP, a void created after Carly Fiorina stepped down as chairman and CEO.

Although Belluzzo declined to say much about the purported job offer, it's clear he intends to put more "zest" into Quantum.

Last quarter, it reported a 12 percent increase in revenue to US$201 million compared with the previous quarter. In October, the creator of DLTtape technology paid US$60 million in cash to acquire rival tape technology developer Certance.

On a recent trip to Sydney, Belluzzo told CNET Asia's sister site ZDNet Australia  he wants Quantum to be seen as dynamic and innovative, and not a sluggish, boring storage vendor.

Q: You were one of the few tipped to replace Carly Fiorina, according to some reports. Did HP make an offer?
A: (Laughs) I can't comment on that.

Throughout this entire process I've consistently said we [Quantum] have a three-year transition period to go through ... we need to focus on that. I've really felt that it's been my priority.

It's very hard to go back ... to go back to that life. It was seven, eight years ago since I was in HP. I have a lot of friends and a lot of relationships including some people who are on the board [at HP], which I think some of the chatter came from.

I made a big change when I came to Quantum ... from a big company [Microsoft] to a small company but I did that for a reason. I enjoy getting my arms around things. I enjoy having an influence over things in a deep and significant way. That has only been reinforced during my two and a half years here as I've watched the change we've started to make and I get a lot of satisfaction from that change but my satisfaction is not fully developed because the job's not finished. And that's what I want to put my time into.

You once said that at the end Quantum's three-year transition period, you hope to "stabilise the business". What's the end result?
Well, I'm not going to predict our future stock price [laughs].

Early on when I came onboard we did say it was a three-year transition process but they've been a lot of forces along the way ... some internal, some external.

We think we're two-thirds of the way through that [process]. Last quarter we delivered the best results that we've delivered in three years. So the remaining time will be left to new products. We think we've built a good infrastructure, the company is making money ... not enough money but we're making money.

Cash is positive so all those things that we've done have been very helpful but to meet our shareholder goals and our own goals, we need to be a vibrant company moving forward. We not only want to make money but we want to have growth potential and innovation so the market will view Quantum as a good, solid, profitable company and also one that is on the move ... a company that's doing new things.

This year is a critical year to fulfil both of those--one is to get new products out, to improve profitability, and secondly to have a perspective of growth and innovation around the product categories that make us an interesting and exciting company. That's what delivers a good stock price--profit and future.

We think this is really a big year for us ... it's really about making tape better. We believe that making fundamental advancement in this area involves new technology which includes disk-based products and other components, and we started a couple of years ago investing there and really pioneered disk-based backup with our DX product line. --by Fran Foo, ZDNet Asia

Click here for the full interview.