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2nd-Generation Geek: Q&A with Matthew Yeager, Storage Blogger and Computacenter Practice Leader: Part 1

March 22, 2011

By Rose Ross (@Rose_at_O) and Olivia Shannon (@Olivia_at_O)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Matthew Yeager left his position at Computacentre in August 2011. He is now the Chief Technologist at Colt Technology Services. Find him on LinkedIn.

We had so many great insights from our interview with Matthew Yeager (@mpyeager) that we’ve decided to run his Q&A as a two-part series. Here is the first part, covering Matthew’s views on what businesses want from their IT providers and the storage issues he thinks are important this year. The second part, now available here, explores Matthew’s views on social media, including a list of some of his favourite storage blogs. Enjoy!

Q.  Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve been in technology for about 16 years, although I never really intended to go into technology as a career. Having grown up in that world, it was just part of my life. My father has been CIO-level or equivalent since I was about four years old. I remember going in with Dad to see the reel-to-reel backups on the weekend. He brought home our first computer when I was about eight; I think it was an Apple IIc. Sometimes my father would write these little programmes to help me with my math homework. I would work with the software for 10-15 minutes then get bored of it and tear it apart with the computer manuals he had lying around. That was at a fairly early age. So I think Dad realised early on that I had a knack for technology and would probably be a “second-generation geek.”

But I never thought I would end up working in technology. I always wanted to be a physician. It’s a fairly convoluted story as to why I ultimately decided not to go to medical school, but it was my father who stepped into the fray and pointed out that I had been doing things with computers my entire life, and I might actually consider it as a career.

My first ever job in IT was working with a three-tier client server application translating to a mainframe with IBM transaction server and OS/2 Warp. That first project I worked on was actually around using the data and the system to reduce the call time for a call centre. The busy period was at Christmas. It didn’t take a genius to realise that actually, if we could reduce each call by 30 seconds, we wouldn’t have to double the number of people we had working the phones during Christmas. And that saved the company money.

I think technology comes into its own where we can align IT to business processes and show how it can benefit business, reduce costs, and increase agility and productivity. I think merging that together is where I find myself career-wise. It’s what brought me to the UK about ten years ago. If you read my blog, that’s generally what I end up blogging about.

Q. What’s hot in storage this year?

I think a lot of the challenges we’ve had over the last 15 to 20 years are still there. For at least the last 20 years, we’ve been talking about issues like data duplication, stale data, structured vs unstructured data, “what should I keep/not keep,” what’s valuable to the business and how to align data to business. Those challenges have been around for a while.

But what’s happened in a very short period of time – probably shorter than any period in my career – is that because of this deluge of data we’ve been creating, “the perfect storm” is in effect. We’ve always said data growth was going to cause big problems sooner or later, but actually, that’s already happened, and I think it’s really surprised a lot of our customers. They’re saying, “IT has become a cost centre, when it should be wealth generator.” Discussions we would have had as technologists two years ago are now finding their way to financial directors, accountants and people who are paying the bills. Terminology like “dedupe” is finding its way into their nomenclature. In a very short period of time, our vendor partners have had to react to that.

So if there is one single “hot” storage issue for customers, I think that’s it. We’re being forced to reduce storage costs without interrupting business, and we’re facing the challenge of evolving IT and data from being a cost centre to being an internal service provider as quickly as possible.

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

As far as industry events go, I’ve presented at Cisco Live and I’ve done Storage Expo a few times. I’ve scaled back on the industry events of late, though, because I think we’ve started to become a bit insular at these events. Sometimes it seems like we are talking to ourselves as an industry instead of talking to our customers. And, to be fair, there is precious little I am going to see on the trade floor that I couldn’t see on the internet or in webinars. I didn’t get to HP Tech at Work, but I was able to sit in my garden with my laptop and watch the keynote address live. Vendors have done a very good job of using the mediums at their disposal to communicate.

As far as other events go, #Storagebeers is pretty crucial for us. What’s interesting about that group of people is that it’s one of the rare groups where people can come in and as long as they are authentic and not trying to sell, by and large you’re accepted into the group and respected. If you’re looking for honest assessment from vendor partners and customers, without “carrying the flag” as such, Storagebeers is great.

I also try to visit at least two or three of our vendors per year. I can’t see all of them every year, because with five tier-one storage vendor partners, I’d be traveling all the time. But it’s crucial for me to go and visit vendor partners on their home court, where the developers are actually working on the development of the product and support of the product.

If I had one recommendation for customer expo type of events, I think we need to do a better job as an industry of demonstrating exactly what these technologies are capable of. I think having hands-on demo areas for customers and business areas for financial directors to come in and query ROI and TCO face-to-face—I think those types of things are hugely beneficial. “Peeling the onion,” so to speak, would only add to the credibility of solutions, products and vendor partners.

Q. Which event are you most looking forward to?

It pains me to say this, but I wish I had gone to Mobile World Congress. It’s not necessarily within my sphere of influence, but now having looked at the press releases and what was announced there, I wish I had gone. There is little doubt in my mind that our customers are going to want us to help them develop their own internal application stores in very short order. They want access to data anytime, anywhere, securely. And I think tablets, smartphones, those types of devices, are going to play a critical role.

Q. How can the vendor community engage with you?

I try to make myself as accessible as humanly possible. Commenting on my blog and reaching out on Twitter are two of the best ways to engage with me. You can also email me—but keep it concise! I get a lot of emails, and I kind of need to know what you’re asking me in less than three lines.

If you’re really trying to get my attention, contact me on the blog. I always read and respond to comments.

Failing that, it’s not too difficult to find my phone number and catch me on my mobile. I don’t necessarily publish it publicly, but a few crafty searches and you can probably find it. So if you really want to be cheeky, phone me.

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

There are three developments that are really important in my view.

1. The consolidation of code bases to single chip sets. We’ve been using a multitude of processors for a long time, and I understand why we haven’t consolidated down to just one, whether it be Intel or ARM or RISC or anything like that. We’ve been waiting as an industry for the chips to catch up, and frankly, once every ten years or so there is a monumental improvement. But with the latest chip sets, and now with Romley coming into the frame, the ability to have chips so powerful that we can actually now run code-like hypervisors, storage controller code, et al directly on the chip set—that’s monumentally important. Because really, at its core, data storage is not spinning disks. It’s software. Having chips that enable you to do that directly on the chipsets (so I don’t need controllers and disks that are bound by controllers) enables me to introduce two really important things: grid-based storage (which increases utilisation and decreases costs massively) and better data mobility between array sets.

2. The automation of tiering, both inter- and intra-array. If you accept the consolidation of single chip sets, this also means you can then automate the positioning of that data. The ability to do this at either file or block level is hugely important. Automated tiering gives customers the ability to say, “I don’t need to know upfront exactly what that workload is going to do. I don’t need to worry about that, because I know I can put solid state drives in tier 0, I can put SATA and SAS drives into the array, and then the automation of positioning of that data will happen, and then I can use business rules to move data around if the workload characteristics change for whatever reason. I can monitor it; I can look at that remotely so if it comes time to spend more money on disk or upgrade capacity, I now know if I need to buy more drives of whatever kind.” The automation of that array is hugely important. We can now also move that data across arrays, so instead of just automating data up and down the array – which is good – I can now introduce a business rule that lets me treat data as an object. If I’ve not touched that email or PowerPoint for x period of time, I can move that data as an object out of my array and into my service provider. I don’t really describe the “federation of data” as much as I describe the federation of service providers. At that point, you’ve introduced an internal service provider into the customer’s existing IT department, and he’s federating that with an external service provider (or providers) such as Google, Amazon, Computacenter, and others. That automation is what enables us to do it.

3. The third is APIs and essentially making storage devices accessible to software. Up until now, a lot of that has been closed, although some APIs have been published (Amazon, for example). What is interesting now – if you look at Vblock, FlexPod, some of these converged infrastructures – storage vendors are quite rightly recognising that keeping the entirety of that code base closed is not a clever thing to do. If you automate the data through the media, between arrays internal and external, you have to have transport, computes, and more importantly, automation. The only way you can do that is by publishing APIs and interfaces so people like Cisco UCS, BNC, Opalis (the people who actually make the software and can automate all of this) can talk to that and don’t necessarily need to know anything about storage. The array can do what it needs to do and the automation software, on the other hand, customers and can go in and request the provisioning of different workloads. They don’t need to know disk groups and RAID groups, VMware, any of that. The automisation of all of that is going to deliver commoditisation, which is frankly what our customers have been asking for.

Part 2 of this Q&A with Matthew Yeager, covering his views on social media, including some of his favourite blogs,  is available here.

Copyright ©Launchpad Europe 2011. All rights reserved. You may copy and distribute this material as long as  you credit the author where possible; the copies are distributed only for non-commercial purposes and at no charge; and you include this copyright notice and link to Countdown2StorageExpo.com, the original source of the work.

If you have any questions, please contact Launchpad Europe, info@launchpad-europe.com.

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5 comments

  1. […] Countdown 2 Storage Expo Resource for storage sales, PR and marketing professionals « Winning the STORRIES: Top Tips from the Organisers Second-Generation Geek: Q&A with Matthew Yeager, Storage Blogger and Computacenter Practice Leader: Part Two March 31, 2011 As we mentioned before, we had so many great insights from our interview with Matthew Yeager (@mpyeager) that we’ve decided to run his Q&A as a two-part series. This is Part Two, covering Matthew’s experiences with social media, including recommendations for what he thinks are some of the best blogs, storage and otherwise. Enjoy! Part One, covering Matthew’s views on what businesses want from their IT providers and the storage issues he thinks are important this year, is available here. […]


  2. […] Matthew Yeager,Chief Technologist, Colt Technology Services […]


  3. […] Matthew Yeager,Chief Technologist, Colt Technology Services […]


  4. […] Matthew Yeager,Chief Technologist, Colt Technology Services […]


  5. […] Matthew Yeager,Chief Technologist, Colt Technology Services […]



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