NetApp has a new CEO after its board of directors appointed Tom Georgens to replace Dan Warmenhoven, who is stepping down after 15 years heading up one the industry’s largest data storage companies.

NetApp, like most major storage vendors, is suffering from declining revenue but the CEO switch appears to be amicable, with NetApp calling it “the result of a management succession process.” Warmenhoven is staying on as chairman of the NetApp board of directors, and congratulated Georgens on his appointment during a conference call in which NetApp discussed its Q1 2010 earnings.

Georgens, 49, joined NetApp in October 2005 and was most recently president and chief operating officer. He will retain his title as president in addition to being promoted to CEO.

“For the past four years, Tom has demonstrated tremendous leadership, strategic thinking and operational ability especially during the challenging environment the past year,” Warmenhoven said, according to a transcript of Wednesday’s conference call. “My 15-year tenure as NetApp CEO has been an incredibly rewarding journey. But nothing lasts forever.”

Warmenhoven, 58, said he had long wanted to leave the CEO position by the time he turned 60, and that this is an appropriate time for a transition because the economy is starting to stabilise. He noted that Georgens will lead NetApp into a new era “characterized by cloud computing and infrastructure service providers which will change the nature of our business.”

“It seems wise to make the CEO change at the beginning of an era rather than in the middle to maximize continuity and minimize disruption,” Warmenhoven said.

In a press release, Georgens said “I am excited about leading NetApp forward at a time when the IT industry is at a critical inflection point that will create tremendous opportunities and inevitable challenges.”

In addition to remaining chairman of the NetApp board, Warmenhoven will serve in the newly created position of executive chairman, with a goal of building and expanding partnerships with service providers and technology vendors.

NetApp recently suffered a competitive blow when its attempt to purchase Data Domain, a maker of de-duplication and backup products, ended in failure when deep-pocketed rival EMC paid $2.1 billion to win a bidding war for the company.

On Wednesday, NetApp announced that revenue for the quarter ending July 31 was $838 million, down four per cent from the previous year’s quarter. Net income was $52 million, an improvement from last year’s total of $35 million.

“Given the economic backdrop, NetApp performed well in the first quarter,” Georgens said.