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Storage Networking & Social Media Maven: Q&A with @Stu Miniman, Principal Research Contributor at Wikibon

March 3, 2011

By Olivia Shannon, @Olivia_at_O

Q.  Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve been in high-tech my entire career. As an undergraduate I studied engineering; then I went into technical sales, where I focused on networking and telecoms. After several years doing that, I went on to work at EMC for 10 years on the technical side. I spent my last three years at EMC as a Technologist in the CTO Office working on strategic planning. Last June, I joined Wikibon as an analyst, researcher and blogger. I enjoy being part of that tech community. Although I interact with a lot of storage at Wikibon, my focus is more on virtualization and networking than pure storage. So I don’t get into arguments about RAID types, and although I am up on trends with disk drives and interfaces, I tend to spend more time outside the box rather than inside.

I’m also married with two kids. As a parent I make sure I fulfill parental obligations such as teaching the kids about Star Wars.

 

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

The Wikibon Project has been around for about four years now. It looks to reinvent the analyst business. It was started basically to take the traditional research analyst business and put it into an open crowdsourcing model for free. Most analyst firms write white papers that go up on their websites behind a pay wall, but everything Wikibon does is available for free. Not only is it free, but a lot of the research is also done through interaction with the community. The website is based on a Wiki, similar to Wikipedia, but what Wikipedia does for general information Wikibon does for the IT business in particular. We have over 15,000 registered IT practitioners who join regular calls on different research topics where we either have an end user or a panel of experts talking about a technology. A core group of us creates most of the content, but it’s through interactions and edits and comments from the broader community that we do a lot of our work.

In addition to the Wiki, we also have blogs and research. If you look at the history, Wikibon actually started out in storage, and focused on storage for the first three years. Obviously things like virtualization and cloud pivoted into storage quite heavily. As you start looking at cloud and convergence and networking and virtualization, that’s a big piece of what I’m doing: helping to round out that stack.

 

Q. What’s hot in storage this year?

The big challenge everyone is having is that operational expenses are way too high. This is a challenge we have been fighting for many, many years. Companies are looking for that transformational technology that will allow them to fundamentally change their economics, but at the same time they still have their legacy infrastructures and legacy challenges.

Virtualization and cloud computing are two of the big waves that are coming – although I hate to say how “hot” they are. What’s hot? Technologies that people can actually deploy. Technologies that can change the way businesses do things. That’s hot. Virtualization is something that has been going on for many years, and we are expecting it to continue for many more years.  Stacks – such as what NetApp is doing with FlexPod, what EMC and Cisco are doing with Vblock, what HP is doing with their stack converging – to simplify infrastructure, not just to put it into a simpler package, but to truly change from managing individual devices and turning a bunch of knobs to really automating things — these are some of the hot topics.

What we hear from CIOs is they are looking to simplify their environments without having to completely overhaul everything and start fresh. Virtualization, cloud and stacks are not necessarily new, but we’re seeing definite pickup.

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

I don’t tend to go to a lot of events – I’ve actually never been to SNW, I have to admit. [NB: After publishing this interview, the Countdown2StorageExpo team learned from Stuart’s blog that he will, in fact, be attending his very first SNW this April.] But I do attend a number of the vendor events. EMC World is one that I’ve presented at for the last seven years, and I plan to attend as an analyst this year. Last year, I also attended Vmworld and Interop. In total, I attend about half a dozen events each year that have a storage angle.

 

Q. Which one are you most looking forward to?

My favourite last year was VMworld, because there were so many people I knew through the social media channel (bloggers, people on Twitter) that it was mind-blowing. People I’d known a few years through social media, that I got to meet in person. That was phenomenal from a networking standpoint. I got to meet a lot of friends.

 

Q. What was the best event you’ve ever been to? Why?

Since being a blogger I’ve had the pleasure of twice going to the World Innovation Forum, a small conference in New York City where they’ve had some of the best speakers on innovation. It’s a very small event with only about 400 attendees (including 20 or so bloggers), but it is phenomenal. Two years ago, this small conference trended globally on Twitter twice. That’s saying something. It was amazing to see people all over the world sharing what we were doing in real-time. That was one of the catalysts that got me blogging more.

 

If you’re familiar with the butterfly effect, I got invited to the World Innovation Forum because of a single tweet. I was at IDC’s storage conference and Nicholas Carr was talking about cloud computing. I talked about Clay Christiansen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma in a tweet, and one of my peers later referenced that tweet in an article. As a result, the World Innovation Forum invited the two of us to go to the conference because Clay Christiansen was the keynote speaker. All because of a single tweet!

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

I’m interested in technologies that can really make a dramatic change in the way things are done. Those are the stories I look for. I take a look at how organisations need to restructure and how operational efficiencies can be had. I’m interested in stories that capture something that is really different. Last week, for example, I wrote an article about Juniper’s new product launch. They had redesigned the network and they had a new product they’d worked on for three years to do that. These kind of changes where it takes some explanation and time to dig into it to understand the full power of it – those are the stories I like. I don’t want to overuse the word “innovation,” but when you find something really different that does some new things, that’s what I like to dig into.

Q. How many interviews do you do per week?

It varies, but I am probably briefed by at least four or five companies a week. We keep a tally on the website. I don’t attend every single briefing that’s offered to the Wikibon group, but there are a lot. We average around 150 – 200 a year. I’m new to the analyst business, and it’s staggering how many different companies and technologies there are. It’s really interesting to see so many different angles for so many different topics. It’s challenging to keep up!

 

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

I’m very easy to get hold of. Twitter is easy and quick. For briefings, we have an operations manager, and I funnel everybody to him. He helps make my job a lot easier. But absolutely, anybody who has an interesting technology or story, feel free to reach out via email or Twitter. Unfortunately, we can’t write about everybody that comes to us and not everything is appropriate for me.

Q. What’s your favourite blog?

I love reading StorageRap by Marc Farley at 3PAR. It’s a really nice blog; he has creative ways of sharing information. Not everyone agrees with everything he says – and obviously, he works for a vendor, so there are some biases there – but it’s one that I read regularly.

Our cofounder, David Vellante, also has some great insights on the business. Even though I sit in the office next to him, he’s one that I read before I came to Wikibon and he is someone I’m learning a lot from. I really enjoy his business perspective.

 

Q. What about your own blogs?

Most of my own blogging these days is on the Wikibon blog. There are a handful of us who post blogs on Wikibon.org. I also have a personal blog, BlogStu.Wordpress.com. In the past I have used it to write about storage virtualization, networking, innovation, and social media…whatever I felt like. My own blog has languished a bit since I took my job at Wikibon, but I do try to post every month or so. It’s just that most of my content tends to be up on Wikibon.

At Wikibon I can essentially write whatever I want, which is great. People knew me as a blogger when I worked for EMC, and I would say there was a bit of self-censorship in what I wrote at that time. I needed to be careful because EMC partnered with almost everyone. I would try not to write anything negative. I would always try to be critical, but not negative. Now I have a bit more leeway. I feel more “me” now – like I can be more myself when I write. Of course there is still some filter. Whenever you write, you reflect on the organisation you work for, and I take that seriously. I use Twitter a lot, and there are still a lot of times when I draft a tweet and realise it would probably be better not to send it. Sometimes I have a blog post almost completed, and then I ditch it because it’s not there, it’s not valuable, or I feel like I’m not adding to the discourse enough. I try to write for myself, but I always hope I’m adding to the community as well.

 

Q. What is your favourite piece of technology?

I have an iPhone 4 and I do everything on it. Especially for someone who does a lot of social media, the iPhone is fantastic. It has great web tools and it’s semi-functional as a phone.

 

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

Understand your differentiation in marketplace. I hear a lot of stories, and my first question is usually, “here are six other companies who sound like they’re doing the exact same thing as you. Why are you different?” You’ve got to have that elevator pitch down so we understand what is truly making you unique.

Something else I always want to know is what customers love about the technology. Our focus at Wikibon is writing for the end user. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you have 170 features and your competition has 150 features. What matters is, what does it mean to the end user in the data centre? What are they using, what are they finding different? What makes them happy?

 

Q. What’s your favourite restaurant?

 

In America, my regular fix is Chipotle. I am a big fan of Thai food and Indian food. When I can hop across the pond, I always get a good curry because England has phenomenal Indian food.

My favourite restaurant in the world is in Amsterdam. It’s actually an Indonesian restaurant called Cilu Bang. Indonesia is a Dutch colony, and in Amsterdam they do this thing called a rijsttafel. What they do here is get a big bowl of rice and 30 to 40 of these tiny dishes with different meats, curries, coconut and nuts. You put rice on your spoon then add the meat and sauces. Every bite tastes different. Indonesia itself doesn’t do rijsttafel. It’s a fusion cuisine you can only get in the Netherlands, and it’s truly my favourite food anywhere. I’ve recommended it to a few friends and they all have the same reaction.

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

Yes, I’ve been very deep into social media for the last three years. I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Twitter is for everyone. LinkedIn is for business connections. And Facebook is for my friends. I’ve actually met everyone that I’m friends with on Facebook. I try to keep my personal information on Facebook separate – although Facebook shares more and more of your information these days, and the lines between private and public blur a lot.

 

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?

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I’m a big Star Wars fan. My claim to fame, though, is a video I did for EMC on Fibre Channel over Ethernet about two and a half years ago. It’s just a five minute introduction to the technology, but for some reason everybody seems to have watched it. I’m not sure why. It has almost 19,000 views on YouTube. In 2009 I went to Cisco Live in Las Vegas, and as I walked around, everyone was like, “hey, it’s the FCoE guy!” I’ve had LASIK eye surgery since it was filmed, though, and I no longer wear glasses.

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2 comments

  1. […] I was interviewed by Countdown to Storage Expo (a UK-based marketing group), here’s the link: Storage Networking & Social Media Maven: Q&A with @Stu Miniman, Principal Research Contribut…. After doing the interview, I found out that I will be attending my first SNW next […]


  2. […] like StorageIO (Greg Schulz), Wikibon (Dave  Vellante, et al), and ESG group (Steve Duplessie and team). […]



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