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Q&A with Phil Alsop, Editor of SNS Europe & SNS UK

October 1, 2010


Q.  Tell us a bit about you:

A little bit beyond the “life begins” age, I live in Wiltshire (not far from the UK’s own M3/M4 Silicon Valley) with a wife and a quantity of children and animals. Cricket and hockey for all three sons tends to dominate my spare time. Have worked as a journalist and editor in trade publishing for 20+ years,  starting in the engineering and warehousing sectors, and eventually arriving at water tech and storage networking and data centres – working on and launching a range of magazines over the past seven or so years.

Q – Tell us a bit about the titles you write for and their interest in data storage:

SNS Europe and SNS UK came out of the magazine I launched with a couple of colleagues, Fibre Channel Focus, which worked closely with the FCIA in Europe and the US. As IP Storage came on the horizon and SNIA came to Europe, it became fairly obvious that a title change – to Storage Networking Solutions – was required. The SNS magazines are still the only titles in Europe that focus entirely on storage networking technology, and we enjoy a good relationship with SNIA Europe. We are also  part of the organisation  that organises SNW Europe each year (Angel Business Communications).

Data Centre Solutions was launched about four years ago. From working with storage, it was clear that the data centre was becoming a focal point for a range of IT solutions – and then, of course, there are the buildings, the “facilities” and the whole colo and managed services side of it.

The temptation to launch a Cloud publication is strong, but ‘cloud’ means so many different things to different folks, that it might be difficult to bring it all together, or know where to focus!

Q – What’s hot in IT storage this year?

In one word: Cloud. That said, virtualisation has gained seemingly unstoppable momentum (a necessary precursor of The Cloud), which cannot be said of convergence just  yet – but it seems like it will happen over time.

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

Not as many as I should, owing to workload. Probably somewhere between 12 and 15 a year in the UK and Europe.

Q – Which one are you most looking forward to?

I’m off to VMWorld Europe mid-October, and, call me biased, but I do enjoy SNW Europe – it’s a great chance to listen and learn from both vendors and end users.

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

Mergers and acquisitions seem to be firmly back on the agenda, and then it’s back to the largely familiar – cloud, virtualisation, consolidation and convergence. Of particular interest are what I call the Tier 2 companies (below the major players), who have great technology, but not the market presence of the big guys. It’s always interesting to see if technology or marketing wins out.

Q. How many interviews do you do per week?

Thursdays and Fridays are spent on the phone most weeks, and I do some face-to-face meetings – although travelling into London for one meeting isn’t great use of time.  So, anywhere between four and 12 per week.

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

Email is king in my book – gets straight through to people, but gives them time and space to work out a response.

Q. – Who is worth listening to?

I enjoy talking to any and all vendors about their solutions and how they see the market going – they’re the folks who have to make money from technology at the end of the day, so they have most to lose if they talk nonsense!

Q. – What’s your favourite blog?

I have to confess that, despite the best efforts of my children, getting me on Facebook, and the fact that I do Twitter (not as much as I should) for SNS and DCS, blogging is something that I have not really got into just yet. Time is hectic enough working across the magazines, newsletters and websites, without trawling and reading endless blogs – however good the content !

Q – What is your favourite piece of technology?

Apple technology wins every time! The iPod is great, the Apple Mac is great in the publishing world, and my IT-illiterate wife can work her iPhone and there’s every chance, therefore, that she’ll get to grips with an iPAD – not sure if that’s good or bad!

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

I could be mischieveous and suggest that the decision to abandon InfiniBand first time around as a genuine contender for the one, unified connectivity fabric was fairly significant – the more so as convergence is now going to be based around Ethernet.  But in terms of what has probably had the most positive impact on the most end users, it would have to be simple backup software.

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

Look at the story objectively before pitching. Of course it’s of great interest to you/your company, but is it really of significance to the wider world? And, if so, is it a major story, or a fairly low-key announcement that doesn’t require a “bells and whistles” approach? Also, if I had a euro for every time I’ve been told a company wants to speak to me, and when the call takes place the company spokesperson says “What would you like to know?” – I would have retired a few years back! Interviews are great, just so long as both parties know what is the objective!!

Q – What was the best press trip you’ve ever been on?

Most memorable was a week long coach trip around Germany – taking in the Hanover Fair – shortly after I started in journalism. Two coach loads of customers and a few journalists visiting pubs and breweries all over Belgium and Germany, plus a factory opening (the reason for the trip). However, a press event at the Museo de Bellas Artes (not the more famous Guggenheim) in Bilbao was the best, simply because we had the art gallery all to ourselves, so I could stand for hours looking at the El Greco paintings – sorry if that sounds pretentious, but as far as I’m concerned art doesn’t get any better.

Q-  What’s your favourite restaurant?

The Sloop Inn. Every year we go on holiday to West Wales for the surf and the empty beaches, and we always visit the inn during our stay – the food is excellent and plentiful and sitting outside in the evening overlooking the harbour beats anything that city life has to offer.

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

Tolerator rather than lover. I’m on Facebook courtesy of my sons, and I get involved sporadically (it’s good to find out what the boys are up to – not sure if they’ve realised this…) The downside is that many of these social media sites seem to be little more than extensions of today’s celebrity culture. We can all be celebrities, apparently – even if we have no talent, but just swear a lot and tell people how drunk we got at the weekend. On the plus-side – for keeping in touch with friends is there a better solution? My eldest changed schools last year and he keeps in touch with so many old school friends.

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?

Listening to choral music from all eras isn’t exactly out of left field, but sitting in a cathedral that’s been there for hundreds of years enjoying the sounds of Tallis or Howells is about as rewarding as it gets when I’m not taxiing boys to cricket, hockey, rugby and golf all over the west country and further afield. As for a claim to fame, I have played cricket with and against a few famous names, but my wife played netball and trampolined for Wales, and I can’t compete with that!

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