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Interview with Howard Marks, Founder and Chief Scientist @DeepStorageNet

May 11, 2012

By @Rose_at_O & @Olivia_at_O

Howard Marks can be found online at DeepStorage.net, on Twitter @DeepStorageNet or follow his blog at NetworkComputing.com. Based on the US East Coast, Howard will be in London next month to keynote a virtualization seminar at the Hilton Metropole on June 28th. He recently delivered the seminar in Montreal and will also keynote the seminar in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 7th.

Q.  Tell us a bit about yourself: 

My first job out of college, where I studied chemistry, was at Lifeboat Associates which was then the world’s largest software distributor. Of course it was 1980 so we were still a small business best known as being able to put CP/M software on any of a hundred disk formats.  From there I started the first Novell reseller in New York and ended up as a consultant for 25 years working across servers, storage and networking.

To promote myself as a consultant I started writing at PC Magazine in 1987 and have written hundreds of articles and product reviews.

 Q. Tell us a little bit about DeepStorage.net and its interest in data storage. 

As the publishers all closed their test labs I realized that users and vendors both still needed the independent hands-on validation reviews provided. So I took the test lab I built for magazine reviews and turned it to validating products with the vendors, rather than publishers, paying the bill.  Since I spent the last 7 years or so as the resident storage guy at Network Computing we’re mostly concentrating on storage and related technologies.

Basically we take equipment into the lab and tell the world how it really performed. I also spend a lot of my time explaining storage technologies and how to use them in papers, seminars and webinars.

Q. What’s hot in storage this year? 

I’m excited about the continuing impact flash is having on storage design. I’m paying particularly close attention to the next generation storage arrays from vendors like NexGen, Starboard, Nimble and Tintri and to using flash in the server to accelerate applications.  I’m working on a report on server side caching that will be out later in the spring.

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

Not counting the storage for virtualization seminars I teach, which will by the way come to London on June 28th, I go to between 7 and 10 events a year.  That includes the big conferences and Tech Field Day storage events.

 Q. Which one are you most looking forward to? 

I always look forward to Tech Field Day because it’s a great opportunity to get a small number of really sharp people in a room and dig deep with vendors brave enough to face us.  After all we invented FcoTR at Tech Field Day. On the other hand VMworld has become the biggest event in the storage business and I’m always busy there.

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

I love the new and innovative.  Companies that really do build a better mousetrap can get my attention.

 Q. How many interviews do you do per week? 

It depends.  In a slow week I might do three or four briefings.  In the weeks leading to a major conference when everyone’s trying to announce new products it could be as many as 3 a day.

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

Email most definitely. I get a lot of email pitches and it will only take me a second or so to figure out if it’s worth my attention.

I follow the data storage, server hardware, server virtualization, and data center networking areas.  It’s VERY rare I’ll have any professional interest in anything outside those market segments especially consumer products of any kind.

Calling, or repeatedly emailing, about products outside those areas is a good way to get me to classify you as a time waster and put you on the email blacklist.  Note some email services like eTeligis are already on the blacklist and are deleted by my spam filter before I see them.

I find phone calls really break my train of thought so don’t call me to see if I got your email unless you have a very good reason to believe I’m already interested. I see the vast majority of my email and respond to the ones I feel merit immediate attention. It seems the PR folks that call are almost never pitching something I actually care about.

Personal emails that mention why I might be interested from PR folks that have sent me 4-5 things I’m interested in in a row work better than blasts from folks that don’t demonstrate they know me.

Q. Who else is worth listening to (about storage)? 

Stephen Foskett, Robin Harris, Martin Glassborow and Chris Evans.

Q. What’s your favourite blog?

Scott Lowe usually makes me think and Storagezilla can make me laugh.

 Q. What is your favourite piece of technology?

I’m old enough to still be impressed by how much the cell phone changed the way we live but my iPad is probably my fave.

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

The ST-506 disk drive, it made storage affordable. 

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

Read my blog so you know what I care about.  I recently put up a 1000 word post on how I like PR folks to deal with me.

 Q. What was the best business trip you’ve ever been on? Worst? Why?

The best was a speaking gig in Tokyo. It was so different from everywhere else that I was thinking and learning all the time.

The worst was the time I spent 4 hours in immigration in Toronto because the rules had changed when NAFTA was ratified. They gave me a ticket for my deportation before I talked them out of it.

 Q. What’s your favourite restaurant?

Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. I was upset when they closed the branch in Las Vegas. Now you have me craving the turtle soup.

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

I have a Facebook account but mostly because my kids, who are 28 and 30, post there so I can keep up with what they’re doing.  I’m addicted to Twitter and use LinkedIn as an extended Rolodex.

 Q. Tell us something no one knows about you. Do you have any unusual or unexpected hobbies or interests? Do you have a claim to fame?

Well I do share a name with an infamous drug dealer. That’s always fun when I land at Heathrow.

My father ran a prop house in New York for many years.  I worked with him doing on-set computers for movies and TV for a few years.

Originally published at Countdown2StorageExpo.com. Copyright ©Launchpad Europe 2012. 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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