Cloudera Gets New CEO
There was no thunder, no lightning and, quite frankly, not even much press when Cloudera co-founder and CEO Mike Olson announced that he’d be handing the company’s leadership reigns over to Tom Reilly. The announcement came yesterday via a blog post on the company’s site. (Not exactly Cloudera style, they generally pre-brief the press when they have news. Could it be that they don’t want to answer any questions just yet?)

Setting the Stage

Reilly, who was most recently vice president and general manager of Enterprise Security Products at HP, sold his former company, ArcSight, to the computer giant for US$ 1.5 billion, 24% over its valuation on the stock market.

Previous to that, Reilly had taken ArcSight public in 2008.

So, regardless of what other qualifications Reilly may have, it’s hard to imagine that they rate above money-making. And if Cloudera wants to go public, he’s likely their man.

And I doubt I’m the only person who thinks this. ArcSight and Cloudera share an investor, Q-Tel.

While it may be slightly obnoxious to suggest that a company plans to make an exit just because they had a change in leadership and hired a guy like Reilly who just might have been hand-picked by Cloudera’s VC , there’s little tidbit Cloudera co-founder Amr Awadallah, dropped during an interview with Business Insider last year.

"We are building this to be a huge, huge company," he said. "My preference is to go public but it could be a big suitor taking it."

I remember thinking, Why did you say this right now? when I read it. It sure seems like an exit was on his mind at that time.

Reading Between the Lines

Olson’s blog said nothing quite as blatant yesterday, but it might have dropped a clue.

The market is absolutely exploding around us. The entrance over the past couple of years of venture-backed and big-vendor products and companies is no surprise. The opportunity is absolutely enormous,” he wrote.

I wonder if he had trouble keeping his hands off the “Shift+$” key as he wrote (that’s the $ sign symbol).
Olson’s outright explanation for bringing Reilly on board was all about growing a rapidly growing company:

We’re building a company that we expect to stay independent (READ as “We are not looking to be acquired”) and to lead the market for many years to come. That will demand relentless focus on operational excellence and on the technology and solutions that our customers need. The combination is, at our present scale, two jobs, not one.

Tom led Arcsight through its IPO to industry leadership in mission-critical, bet-the-business security. He knows the enterprise. He’s a been-there, done-that executive. He’s run very successful enterprise software companies at global scale.

Tom’s appointment as CEO allows me to concentrate my time with key constituents: Our product and engineering teams, our partners, our sales force, our customer-facing technical teams and – most importantly – our customers themselves. He and I have spent considerable time together over the last several months, building trust in both directions and planning for a smooth transition. Cloudera is a better company, today and for the long term, with the two of us working together.”

There are also a few other obvious, and not so obvious, things to consider, such as timing. Wall Street is in love with the Enterprise space right now, consider Marketo’s happy exit. There’s also up-and-coming competition from other Hadoop masters like Hortonworks, MapR, and WANdisco.

And not to be forgotten is EMC spin-off Pivotal and its new technology HAWQ which promises to bring bigger benefits to the Enterprise than Cloudera. And then, of course, there’s Pivotal itself, its leader Paul Maritz (who ran VMWare at its height) and its list of A-rated investors, GE, EMC and VMWare. If they are successful in their mission of building the operating system for the Big Data World (and the market buys it) then the game may very well change for all of the players in the Big Data market. (And yes, I know most of you say that it ain’t gonna happen.) We’ll see.

Until then anyone want to guess when and at what price Cloudera’s exit will be?

Title image courtesy of plampy (Shutterstock)