New CEO looks to broaden Omneon’s horizons

Broadcast video server provider Omneon has a new president and CEO who’s tasked with broadening the company’s market share in industries other than broadcast. Suresh Vasudevan, a former senior executive at NetApp, a storage networking and data management solutions company, appears up to the challenge.

Vasudevan’s chief role will be to focus on technology and business development and less so on sales. He said one of his first goals is to identify the various vertical markets where Omneon can bring value, while also strengthening existing customer relationships across all related industries. An initial target will be the post-production industry, where HD, 2K and 4K projects are increasingly demanding more storage and more sophisticated data management tools for securely archiving multiple projects.

“I understand where data growth is coming from within the professional video industry and what technology we need to build to meet this new demands,” Vasudevan said. “Multimedia content distribution, delivery and storage is a large opportunity for those that have experience in serving this market. What drew me to Omneon was the focus that the company had on addressing these segments with products that customers were attracted to in large numbers.”

He said Omneon has already established a reputation among its broadcast customers for good service, reliability and cost-effectiveness, and that that would provide him with a good foundation to work with going forward. The overall industry’s transition to file-based infrastructures is exactly where Omneon got its start, and supporting this migration will continue to be a large part of its product strategy.

Vasudevan cited products like Omneon’s Spectrum video server, MediaGrid Active Storage System and ProCast CDN content distribution platform as examples of forward-looking technology that can be configured in a variety of ways for different installations. In this product category, customization is key, and the products’ modular approach fits that model nicely. It’s here that Vasudevan’s experience at NetApp in identifying new markets will come in handy.

“The technologies that make us relevant for broadcast production and post-production environments can be more broadly applicable to such applications as corporate video production and animation rendering farms, so I see a tremendous opportunity for growth,” he said. “That’s why my plan is to attack adjacent segments with technology we know can benefit broader market segments.”

The current challenging economic times will limit R&D resources (as it is among most technology vendors this year) for new innovation, but Vasudevan said the company’s existing products can be reconfigured in different ways to meet the needs of new market segments. Omneon’s MediaGrid, among its newest products, is currently in its second generation and can be easily installed in nontraditional production facilities as well as it has been in all-digital broadcast facilities like Time Warner Cable’s NY1 News, in New York city.

The new Major League Baseball Network, launched in January, is among hundreds of broadcast facilities nationwide that are using the Spectrum server for content distribution and delivery.

“What trumps every other priority for us at Omneon is navigating what everyone agrees is going to be one of the most difficult economic environments we’ve seen ever,” he said. “No company in this environment has carte blanche to execute strategy while putting aside financial constraints. This is going to be a year where we have to carefully balance cash burn rates versus product priorities and growth strategies.”

Without providing details, Vasudevan said Omneon’s fourth quarter in 2008 was up from 2007, and expects that to continue. “All signs are pointing in the right directions and we see a lot of pent up demand. The next quarter will tell us what the rest of the year will look like, but we’re remaining optimistic.”

Vasudevan replaces Joe Kennedy, who served as president/CEO of the company from early 2003 until May of last year. Since then Larry Kaplan, who co-founded Omneon in 1998, has served as interim president. Kaplan now returns to his previous position as vice chairman of the board.

Prior to his tenure at NetApp, Vasudevan worked at the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chicago as a senior engagement manager focusing on product marketing, operations and marketing strategy.