Q&A with Greg Schulz, Founder of StorageIOApril 1, 2011
Greg took some time out of his busy schedule as an author, blogger, independent IT advisor and consultant at the Server and StorageIO Group (StorageIO) to chat with Countdown2StorageExpo’s Olivia Shannon about life, food, travel, fishing, fun and — of course — storage!
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m an information junkie and a non-elitist foodie. I’m on a see-food diet: I see food and I eat it! I love food and hanging out with foodies, but I’m not hung up on being an elitist foodie. I enjoy a PB&J and a hotdog as much as I enjoy Singapore pepper crab. I like wine, but I also like beer.
Aside from cooking, I like fishing and enjoy catching and releasing. I’m a member of the Arcola hookers group.
I went to college (in the UK you call it “university”) for business administration, and I wanted to be an architect before that. I had a challenge with math, but when I discovered computers, I realised math was a breeze. I could program my way through business classes and math classes. I could program my way right through college! When I stumbled into computer science, that led to a lot of different situations that ultimately led to my IT career.
I was born in California, grew up in North Dakota, and now I’ve been living in Minnesota for a couple decades. I’ve been an IT customer, an IT vendor and I’ve worked for analyst firms. We’ve recently had our fifth anniversary at StorageIO, so we are now in our sixth year. I’ve been on both the customer and vendor side, and StorageIO is all about leveraging those experiences. I’m involved with servers, storage, networking hardware/software; I’ve done BC/DR, backup, performance capacity planning and more.
Q. Tell us a bit about StorageIO and its interest in data storage.
The fundamental theme is that knowledge is useless unless you can share it with others. Likewise, data is just data until you can apply something to it and make it information.
The full name is Server & Storage IO, which reflects that lineage of going back and working from the programming, through the servers, storage, the IO, the networking, all those pieces. I started out having worked on both mainframes and TRS-80s, which was before the PC era. I was using Macs before it was trendy and cool. In fact, I think I still have my first Mac that I bought 20-some years ago downstairs, sitting right next to a Newton that I got, and that’s probably a couple decades old now, as well. It’s coming back to leveraging all those different pieces, leveraging having been the operator, the person writing the program, having designed business application, then having to take care of those, moving into systems management, and moving into systems engineering. I’ve also worked in different industries: the photographic industry, electric power and energy, benefits, financial. It’s tying all those experiences together.
I’ve probably been dealing with servers longer than I have with storage. I’ve been dealing with servers about 24 years. There are people who know me from when I was involved in networking and I was involved with LAN, SAN, WAN, MAN, POTS and PANS. I worked at a networking company for several years, and of the networking people I worked with, some of them kind of knew I was involved with storage, and some of them kind of knew I was involved with servers. These different eras of working with different people—the customers, the vendors, the different sides—it’s been a journey.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your blog and what you tend to write about.
On my blog there is some content that I put there first that is then picked up by different syndicators and venues. It’s where I put information. I use it maybe a little differently from some blogs. In the past I may have written an article or done a white paper or a report and put it out more like traditional news, but now I put that new content in the blog first, and then I go back and transform it into white paper or report. My blog is where you’ll find industry trends, perspective, commentary, educational material, and some fun things, too. It intermixes technology with general life, travel, foods and fun. If all you’re ever going to do is talk about storage, how boring is that? You’ve got to humanise it. Sometimes my blog posts reference articles or guest posts or interviews I’ve done for others. Or sometimes there are commentaries on another topic linking to somewhere else. Between my blog and my main website, that’s where I collect a lot of my different content.
Q. What’s hot in storage this year?
What’s hot for vendors or the industry is different than what’s hot for customers. For the industry, what’s hot is the buzz. What is the media talking about? What’s new and exciting? Generally, that’s solid state, cloud, fibre channel, ethernet, FCoE, de-dupe, data footprint reduction, scale out storage, object-based storage.
For customers, what’s hot is what they’re actually buying and using. Customers like to hear and read about that, and some early adopters deploy, but there is often a time delay between industry buzz and customer adoption. Generally I think customers are interested in the brick and mortar. They are interested in cloud, but they want clarification. They want to know what’s real: how can they use it in their environment? They’re looking to boost efficiency and effectiveness and move beyond basic consolidation. They’re looking for the basics: how to modernise data protection and update backup and not just simply swap out the mediums. Data footprint reduction is big for customers. They’re interested in things they can do with what they may already have and being able to maximise their environments.
So there is a little disconnect there, but you can see where it all converges. There are times when I still think like a vendor; there are times when I still think like a customer; and there are times when the two come together.
Dozens, easily. It might just be a conference or a seminar, but I also go to VMworld, EMC world and other smaller type events. I think if I were semi-retired or retired, I’d probably do the vendor junkets where you could do nothing else but be flown around the world going to different junkets, but that would probably double my waistline. Besides, like many IT professionals, I have work to do. I may go to a vendor event now and then, but I like the ones where the end users are there. I love talking to end users. I want to hear what’s on their minds, because what better place to get it from than the people who are living and breathing it?
Q. What types of companies or stories are likely to attract your attention this year?
I like the ones that have something that’s going to be applicable to the actual IT environment; in other words, something that most IT environments can find a use for in the next several months or couple years. Many IT organisations have long lead times on some technologies, so you have to start looking at things now. Certainly I am interested in anything that enables public/private cloud, virtualization, convergence, energy optimization and the storage fundamentals (cheaper, faster, more performance, etc). The companies that really get my attention, though, are the ones that are not trying to sell me something—the ones that say, “hey, we have something we think is interesting and would love to chat with you about it” rather than those saying, “we have the coolest…” followed by a list of superlatives.
Q. How many interviews do you do per week?
A couple hundred per year with vendors. With press, 200-300 per year.
Q. What’s the best way to pitch a story to you? Email? Phone? Twitter? By mail?
Email is the best. Twitter is good to get to know people, interact and establish a rapport. But go easy on the bait-and-switch on Twitter. If you’re trying to pitch me, just tell me. Ask me if you need something. Don’t spin it. Don’t sugarcoat it. If you need a favour, tell me you need a favour. By all means email, email, email, email.
Q. Who is worth listening to (about storage)?
There are so many of them, it’s hard to list all of them. On the customer side, some of the more prominent ones are Martin Glassborow, Ian Foster, Roger Lund. On the vendor side, the one that stands out above all the others is Storagezilla, for the simple fact that he tells you what’s on his mind—good, bad or indifferent—and is usually not trying to pitch you or sell you on something. For the analysts, you’ve got to listen to Steve Duplessie. He’s always got something entertaining to say even if he is full of it. Ray Lucchesi is a diamond in the rough that more people should pay attention to.
As for journalists, you can’t forget about the Daves: Dave Raffo at SearchStorage and Dave Simpson at Infostor. They are great, classic journalists who cover story and look for the “story behind the story” without trying to be the story. If you’re not watching them, you should be.
I’d like to say my Wusthof knife kit! Does that count as technology?
Actually, I might get thrown out of the storage industry for saying this, but I think my favourite piece of technology is my Ford F150 pickup truck. It has a docking station for my iPhone and iPad; it has SYNC so I can do the hands-free; it does all the navigation; it’s got the interoperability so I can plug in any kinds of devices; and it gets me from point A to point B. It’s fun, too, because I live in the Minneapolis area, where we get a lot of snow, and if I see somebody stuck in a ditch, I can pull them up and do my good deed for the day. People say pickup trucks aren’t energy-efficient, but we did some number crunching and my carbon footprint with my Ford pickup truck was lower than my wife’s footprint with her fuel-efficient Lexis. Of course that’s playing with metrics a bit.
If I’m going to be a geek, my favourite technology beyond that pickup truck is simple: the generator. I’ve got a 12kw generator that is fully automated and computerised. It comes on automatically, by itself, when it senses the power go off. Every self-respecting geek needs a standby primary power source. If you think about it, power is really taken for granted.
Q. What’s your favourite restaurant?
That’s a tough one! I love Asian-inspired foods, so for me it’s a toss-up between Brandy Ho’s and Henry’s House of Pain (or Henry’s House of Hunan; we call it Henry’s House of Pain in San Francisco). I’m a pizza guy (I actually grew up in a pizzeria), so two of my favourite pizza places are Pizzeria Regina and Santarpio’s in Boston. I also like fusion, so in Sydney I like Billy Kwong or Radio Cairo. I also like the Jumbo Seafood Centre all the way up at the Singapore airport. Locally, there’s a great restaurant in the Stillwater area called Marx.
Q. Are you a social media lover? Which platforms are you on?
I’m probably as big a fan of social media as I am of regular media—or a typewriter, or pencil and pen. I don’t see social media as the be-all and end-all; I see it as just another medium. To me, a blog is just a medium for communicating. It is no different than a piece of paper or a sketch board. It’s a medium or a platform for communicating your ideas. If you’re a PR person, you’re going to use it as a PR medium. If you’re a journalist, you’re going to use it for journalistic purposes. Finding your voice in social media is a big part of it. In many ways, social media is really no different than having live conversations.
One of the reasons I like social media is that a lot of what I do is “out and about”—talking at seminars, for example. I love going out and interacting with people, and social media allows me to share these face-to-face experiences.
I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Quora. Those are the big ones. The one I am most accessible on is Twitter. The one I ignore most right now is Quora. I’m still asking wondering if Quora is an Abilene paradox. Are we all going there because we think everyone else is going there, or because it’s something people have their own individual reasons for doing? I find it interesting that people have different purposes for going on all kinds of social media platforms. LinkedIn is different from Twitter because it’s less time-sensitive and you’re more likely to have longer conversations. Twitter is more time-sensitive and the conversations are a lot shorter and more to-the-point. Because people choose different mediums for their own purposes, you have to think about what platforms your audience is comfortable with. That’s why I try to use a variety of platforms.
Q. Tell us something no one knows about you.
On TechTarget about ten years ago, I was actually the second person they ever had do an online interactive technology web chat. The first was Steve Duplessie. A lot of people who work at TechTarget don’t even know that! That one hour chat probably generated a couple hundred KBytes of data, whereas today it would probably be in the megabytes.