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Micron's Executive Ranks Take on SanDiskian Hue

Since Sanjay Mehrotra started as Micron’s chief executive, the company has been recruiting the SanDisk founder’s former underlings. On Monday, it enlisted another executive with an enterprise memory background from SanDisk, which Mehrotra founded in 1988.

The memory chipmaker hired Anand Jayapalan as the new vice president of its storage business, which aims to sell flash to large corporations with data centers. He previously led enterprise and client compute solutions marketing at Western Digital, which bought SanDisk for $19 billion in 2015.

Before that, Jayapalan served as SanDisk's vice president of enterprise SSD marketing. He also led SanDisk's hyper scale and data center business – major priorities in Mehrotra's term as chief executive, which ended in 2015. Before the acquisition, SanDisk pivoted from selling flash for gadgets and consumer products like USB sticks.

Under Mehrotra, Micron has been hiring executives to usher its memory chips into data centers and new big data applications like connected cars. Jayapalan will report to Sumit Sadana, Micron's chief business officer, whose hiring was announced in June. Previously, Sadana plotted SanDisk's strategy in enterprise solutions.

Less than a week after that hiring, the company announced that Jeff VerHeul, SanDisk's former vice president of corporate engineering, would run its non-volatile memory business. In short order, Micron also revealed plans to divest a business unit that sold flash memory products directly to consumers.

As Micron's center of gravity has shifted, the business has thrived on higher DRAM prices and growing sales of NAND chips, which companies aggressively stack in three dimensions to increase memory density. That stems from a recent shortage of memory chips, whose prices typically fluctuate based on supply and demand, not unlike steel or solar panels.

Mehrotra hopes that steady data center business will shield Micron from future price fluctuations, which have kept its revenues swinging wildly in recent years. Part of Micron’s strategy lies in the 3D XPoint memory it built with Intel. But the server chips, which share qualities of both NAND and DRAM, have yet to significantly spur sales.

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