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Q&A with Greg Knieriemen, iKnerd Storage Blogger & Infosmack Co-Host

March 24, 2011

More #SNWusa prep from the @321StorageExpo team. We hope you enjoy this Q&A with Greg Knieriemen (@knieriemen), VP at Chi Corporation, co-host of the Infosmack Podcast and self-proclaimed Knerd.

As a Vice President for Chi Corporation, a U.S. based storage and virtualization integrator, my primary responsibility is to provide client engagement support for our team which usually involves both internal and external technology evangelism. I’m very passionate about good technologies that solve real IT challenges while pushing back on technologies that create more problems than they solve. I tend to be cynical of vendor and industry analyst “noisemakers” and I consciously try to filter out those who don’t really add value in solving real IT problems.

For fun, I co-host the Infosmack Podcast and what started as a crazy idea has taken on a life of its own. Our recent distribution deal with The Register dramatically increased our exposure which is really exciting. We weren’t sure if you could mix humor with serious enterprise tech discussions but the combination is working so far.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your blog and its interest in data storage.

My personal blog, http://iKnerd.com/, is really a sounding board for me to rant about what is going on in enterprise and personal tech. Unlike many blogs, iKnerd.com is not as much about personal marketing as it is to socialize my crazy thoughts. It shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The podcast is really where my interest in storage and enterprise tech manifests itself.

Q. What’s hot in storage this year?

Everything. Although it’s at the bottom of the enterprise tech stack, the boring world of enterprise storage is suddenly sexy with the explosion of data that is taking place. The great news for everyone in the industry is that there are so many different things going on between application and business requirements that new challenges are spawning new solutions. For instance, virtualization sprawl has created storage management challenges that didn’t exist three years ago. While this active development of new technologies is exciting and offers great potential, the most immediate challenges are often more basic, functional and routine.

Q. How many storage events do you attend each year?

Dozens.

Q. Which one are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to VMworld – it’s easily the best enterprise tech event today. I also try to attend as many regional VMware User Group (VMUG) meetings as possible. The quality in education and knowledge that comes from these events is incredibly valuable. Storage Networking World (SNW) is good and it’s nice to see the show is growing again. We usually do 6 – 8 podcasts from each SNW in the U.S.

Q. What types of stories or companies are likely to attract your attention this year?

I believe we will have one or two monster acquisitions this year that could be extremely disruptive to the industry and end-users which will, in turn, create new challenges for our industry.

Emerging companies with unique value propositions are always interesting. The challenge in following startups is that the best technology doesn’t always succeed because of a lack of backend business fundamentals and good marketing. You can’t just look at good and cool tech, if you have to be holistic and look at their ability to execute as they bring their solutions to market. It’s exciting to see a good tech company execute well and succeed.

Q. How many interviews do you do per week?

Usually not more than the one we do each week for the podcast.

Q. What’s the best way to pitch a story to you? Email? Phone? Twitter? By mail?

Actually video and/or PowerPoint. Email is good for initial introductions.

Q. Who is worth listening to (about storage)?

It should go without saying, but the people that actually use the technology are the most valuable sources for information and I place a great deal of weight on end-users themselves.

Vendors will give you their vision for technology which is useful in understanding their philosophy, approach and roadmap but it’s usually within the scope of what they know best – their own products.

Channel partners and integrators have the benefit of working with multiple vendors and a variety of end-users so their scope is usually broader than a single vendor.

The biggest mistake people inside the industry (and some end-users) make is to listen to analysts who don’t actually use, test or understand the technology. There is no shortage of vendor-sponsored opinions in enterprise tech, but there are a few – very few – analysts that actually do the hard work of evaluating technology and give real analysis.

Q. What’s your favourite blog?

That’s tough… there are so many good ones! Definitely my top independent storage blogs are Storagebod.com, StorageNerve.com, NigelPoulton.com and TheStorageArchitect.com. In general internet / tech blogs, I always read LouisGray.com as well as Brad O’Neill’s “Pattern Interrupt” blog.

Q. What is your favourite piece of technology?

For personal tech, my HTC EVO 4G is really outstanding and I’d be lost without it. In enterprise tech, I love VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). The scalability, mobility and security of desktop virtualization provides real operational business value and is extremely transformative for enterprises today.

Q. What do you think is the most important development in storage to date?

My Infosmack co-host Marc Farley’s book “Building Storage Networks” from 2001. I hope he comes out with a 2011 edition so people know he’s still alive.

Seriously though, server virtualization has greatly empowered IT departments to grow and scale in ways we didn’t think possible even 5 years ago and this is easily the single most important development in storage.

Q. What is the best piece of advice for companies pitching stories?

Clearly demonstrate the unique value in the space it plays in and most definitely compare yourselves to the industry leaders in your space by name if you have a better solution than they do. Too many unknown tech companies are foolishly reluctant to stick their necks out to show their unique value. If they won’t do that much, why should I or anyone else cover them? You have to have a value proposition that makes you memorable to end-users and I don’t think anything does that better than challenging the industry leaders by name if you really have a better product than they do. Oracle/Sun has done a phenomenal job of directly challenging IBM and HP on full page ads on the back of the Economist. If Oracle can do it, then your company can too.

Q. What’s your favourite restaurant?

Mastros on Wilshire in Beverly Hills, CA. Easily the best steaks I’ve had anywhere in the world.

Q. Are you a social media lover? Which ones are you on? FB? LinkedIn? Twitter?

The success of the podcast has only come about by social media. I’m on all of them but I favor Twitter over Facebook for actually communication. Infosmack Podcasts has an active LinkedIn group with over 4,500 IT people and this has really helped promote the podcast as well as foster communication with IT pros that listen to it.

Q. Tell us something no one knows about you. Do you have any unusual or unexpected hobbies/interests? Do you have a claim to fame?

I like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain. I’m not much into health food – I am into champagne. There, I said it.

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