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Senior executive departure leaves us wondering about Cray's market direction

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Ian MillerIn a filing with the SEC this morning Cray announced that Ian Miller is leaving the company. The departure is organized — his last day is August 14 — and he is getting a severance package, so I’m deducing that he was asked to leave.

Which motivates me to wonder if this signals a change in Cray’s market strategy. Ian’s title is “Senior Vice President, Productivity Solutions Group Sales and Marketing,” and he has responsibility for the CX line of low- to mid-range HPC boxes (the CX-1s and the CX-1000s). Does his departure signal an end to Cray’s attempt to diversify its business out of the high end?

Cray logoBoth of Ian’s roles, marketing and low-end products, will go to the über-capable Barry Bolding, who currently has responsibility for the company’s bread-and-butter high end hardware line. If Barry keeps the low-end hardware role, I’d count that as a bad sign for that — it is fundamentally different from the high end business in everything from engineering and production to sales and distribution, and that meal is probably too big for anyone one person to eat. In this scenario I’d imagine the CX-1 gets the axe, but the CX-1000 could stay, if for no other reason than to serve as training wheels for plugging Intel chips into the currently AMD-only high-end line.

Cray’s decision on marketing is odd, too. The company has not had a senior executive dedicated solely to marketing since the departure of Jan Silvermanseveral years ago. Assigning the role to Ian made a little sense given that most of the company’s “marketing” efforts at the very high-end are managed by personal relationships (something Cray is very good at) — most of the marketing was oriented to the volume products at the low end. But leaving this as an additional duty for an already busy executive who is responsible for the line of business in the company that is currently paying the bills seems to me a guarantee that it will get an even shorter shrift.

I’ve sent in a couple inquiries to the company; if I hear back, I’ll let you know first.

[UPDATE 07/16/2010: you can read Cray’s official response to my wonderings here.]

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