IT Question Time – roundtable review

It’s been frantic but exciting and now it’s over. The first in the A3 Communications ‘IT Question Time’ series of roundtables has been a success and we are already discussing possible topics for our second one.

The pilot for ‘IT Question Time’ was held in Covent Garden, a beautiful area in central London and centred on storage. It was chaired by Martin Glassborow, aka @storagebod, who was joined by a number of senior executives from a range of organisations including vendors, industry bodies and IT distributors, as well as leading journalists, bloggers and analysts. The line-up included CA Technologies’ Phil Maynard, John Greenwood of NCE, Matt Kixmoeller from Pure Storage, Glyn Bowden from SNIA Europe, Craig Bungay from Spectra Logic, and John W. Thompson of Virtual Instruments. On the writers side we had some of the most vocal and influential names including blogger Enrico Signoretti, who travelled from Italy to join our roundtable, Bryan Betts, Amy-Jo Crowley, Chris Evans, Will Garside, Martin Hingley and Chris Mellor.

In a format mirroring that of the famous Question Time TV debate, our event offered one difference when compared to traditional gatherings of spokespeople and writers: for once, the agenda was set by the latter. It was an opportunity for these storage influencers to tell us what they wanted to discuss and then go hell-for-leather with probing questions to facilitate a conversation that would reveal the latest thinking around topics like software-defined storage, that would offer a reality check on the impact of big data, and that would touch on the industry from the technical, business and channel angles.

The event was kicked off with some old-fashioned mingling that was picked up again at the end when we moved to one of Covent Garden’s most popular pubs, the Lamb and Flag, for some #storagebeers.

So the discussion kicked off, with Martin Glassborow directing questions around a myriad of topics such as flash, tape and big data the discussion was lively and engaging, with a more than candid approach by some of the panellists, which was welcomed by attending writers.  Among the issues covered, it was agreed that tape is not going to go away, that there’s no right or wrong way to deploy flash and that FCoE seems to have ‘died on its feet.’ Accusations about industry ignorance and a need for cohesive industry efforts to move forward included talk about tiering which was considered ‘last century’ according to Glyn Bowden, rather that  ‘We should be talking about service instead.’ 

Enterprise vendors were said to be not doing the industry justice with their perpetual chasing of low-level business and growing out on footprint.  Channel Pro’s Will Garside mentioned that the channel was ‘saturated with people who don’t specialise in storage and don’t understand it.’  NCE’s John Greenwood explained seeing increasing customer ‘off-the-shelf’ storage purchasing, ‘people buying off the datasheet, which doesn’t deliver.’  Although incongruously, customers are looking to ensure they have post-sale support.

Reality checks took the form of an agreement that tape is very much here to stay and could be the solution as organisations refuse to delete data that disk is still very much a given, and that flash will be around as an alternative for a long time.  Although John Thompson, CEO at Virtual Instruments, warned that ‘Those who look at flash in isolation and don’t put any other intelligence layers around it are the ones who will fall.’

The group unanimously agreed upon one fact the market is getting bigger and bigger as is the increasing diversification of the customer base.  And we’ll see more global dedupe encryption as part of many features driving next generation solutions. The next five years will see smarter storage and increased acquisitions in the market.

A highly enjoyable, fast-moving debate, was had by the participants with Enrico Signoretti, founder of, remarking that ‘This event was a great use of my time not to be given the marketing-approved spiel, and to be able to contribute to and benefit from such an interactive discussion was very exciting. More, please.’

And so we will – await our next roundtable with baited breath…

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