Rick Tinsley is the former chief executive officer of Silver Peak, a company that focuses on wide area network (WAN) optimization through the virtualization of networks. In this interview Rick talks about Silver Peak’s focus on accelerating data flow of enterprises over large distances. He also gives us insights into the future of the industry and his opinion on what startups should focus on when entering this space, and he discusses opportunities for investors in this space.
[Since we recorded this interview, David Hughes has stepped up as CEO, as described in Silver Peak’s official press release:
SANTA CLARA, Calif., June 19, 2013 – Silver Peak Systems, the leader in accelerating data over distance, today announced that founder and CTO David Hughes has been named CEO. Hughes will build on the company’s rapid growth and market leadership in virtual WAN optimization software, which has propelled Silver Peak to record year-over-year performance and six consecutive years of double-digit revenue growth. Hughes succeeds Rick Tinsley who was hired by Hughes in 2004 to build out the organization.
“I want to thank Rick Tinsley for his extraordinary dedication and commitment, which has been vital in bringing Silver Peak to where it is today,” said Hughes. “Rick has navigated our company through difficult waters that have stranded many of our competitors. Our company is strong, well-positioned, and committed to our vision. We are revolutionizing the WAN optimization market and in the process transforming ourselves into a software company.”]
Sramana Mitra: Rick, let’s start with setting some of your personal background and some information about what Silver Peak’s business is, which customers you serve, and what your business model is.
Rick Tinsley: I am an engineer by training and a business person and CEO by experience. I started my career in the semiconductor industry and worked for large, established companies like TI [Texas Instruments] as well as some startups in this space. Two thirds of my career had been in the networking space, both with large public companies and then more recently startups. I was a founder of my previous startup and I was employee number seven here at Silver Peak. As my founder and CTO likes to say, I am responsible for almost everything that is going wrong here.
SM: Tell me about Silver Peak. What is the company, what do you do, and what are the details about your customers?
RT: Silver Peak is a software company focused on a particular network function called wide area network (WAN) optimization. We basically accelerate the flow of data for large enterprises between distant locations – locations that may be distributed around the globe, and increasingly cloud-based instances, as they move more IT infrastructure from private data centers and enterprise offices to a cloud-based infrastructure.
Our company started as a hardware-based product company – we sold our product as an appliance, which is traditionally the model for these types of products. Right now we are going through an exciting transition of virtualizing our product, unbundling the software from the hardwarem and making it available as a pure software offering. That is a transition that many companies in the industry are going through, not just WAN optimization and networking. This creates interesting challenges that are typical for a lot of technology businesses. It is something we get asked about a lot. It is somewhat easier for us as a private company to aggressively go through that transition than it is for some of our larger and more established competitors, because there are certainly tradeoffs in the short-term that don’t always win you a lot of favors with Wall Street in the short run.