In the era of AI, and despite the software-driven everything trend, storage — and hardware more generally — is finding renewed strategic relevance in the enterprise executive suite.

When industry veteran Charlie Giancarlo decided a little over a year ago that it was time to step back into a tech company role, he had his pick of opportunities.

Coming out of an eight-year stint as a partner at private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, he had an inside track on the future of the entire tech industry. He knew which sectors were getting investments, and which technologies were best poised for breakout growth.

You might expect, therefore, that he would have chosen to lead an AI or cloud company. Instead, he made what may seem a surprising choice: storage.

“[I’m] always looking at trends,” he explained to me. “Not so much what’s ‘hot,’ but what are the fundamental technology trends that are growing along an exponential path, why [they are doing so] and what it means.”

Most of all, he shared, he’s always looking to identify which of these trends have the longest growth path.

An old family friend and owner of several successful businesses once shared with me his secret to success. “Identify the path of progress,” he told me. “And get in its way.”

When Giancarlo chose to join Pure Storage as their CEO, it seems it was because he saw the path of progress barreling its way.

His bet is instructive, however, beyond just what it means for the storage sector. It speaks to a broader and renewed strategic relevance of hardware as data and artificial intelligence (AI) become drivers and enablers of competitive value.

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