I have been asked several times over the course of my career, “If you weren’t working in technology, what would you want to be doing?” Given my love of aviation, I suppose the obvious choice would be airline pilot, but knowing how often long haul pilots are away from their families I’m not sure this profession would be a good outlet for my passion for aviation. No, if I weren’t in technology I would probably want to be a winemaker in New Zealand with my private pilot’s license so I could fly back and forth to Australia.
Why wine, you may ask? Well, I do enjoy drinking it for a start! But I am also continually fascinated by just how complex making wine is …stay with me here, this isn’t a ‘wine snob’ blog. From the selection of the right area for a vineyard, to the selection of the right grape(s) to grow in your vineyard, when to plant and when to pick, whether to use automated machines to pick and de-stem your grapes or do this all by hand, to blend or keep it single varietal, whether to age in stainless steel vats or wooden barrels …and if barrels, what kind of wood? You get the point I’m sure …this stuff can be fairly complicated, and the iterations can keep even the most accomplished of winemakers busy for years making decision after decision. So complicated, in fact, that there is a special designation known as a Master of Wine …of which there are only 287 …in the world!
Now, were I to listen to the French they would tell me that, whilst we have been making wine in just about every region of the world for over three thousand [or more …no one is quite sure!] years …only the French truly know wine, and only French wines can truly be ‘elite’. Ahem. Not quite sure I agree with that, and I have a few friends who happen to be Masters of Wine who wouldn’t agree either. Yes, yes …it is true that French wines are generally ‘safe’ bets when dining out …but they can be awfully expensive safe bets! A good sommelier will listen to your likes / dislikes [Mrs. PL abhors oaky white wines, for example] and what you are eating and will then delicately guide towards a few selections …one will almost always be a ‘safe’ …but almost always pricey …French wine. But, and here’s the key, the very good sommeliers I have known will give you their opinion but then not look down their nose in the slightest if you select the £12 bottle instead of the £70 bottle.
What does this have to do with Storage and Data Protection?
Something very interesting happened on 24 May 1976 to change the way many of us think about wines forever. Known as the Judgment of Paris, a British wine merchant [Steve Spurrier] challenged some Masters of Wine, other distinguished mavens of the wine world , and most importantly …the French world to a ‘blind tasting’ of their wines [Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in particular] against some of the best known wineries in California. What happened was fascinating and a bit too involved to go into here, but let’s just say the French didn’t win. Similar tastings have taken place over the past 30 years [New Zealand pinot noir and sauvignon blanc against ‘Old World’ equivalents being a recent example] to show time and again that French wines aren’t always ‘the best’ and other alternatives certainly exist.
I see many parallels in the world of storage. Some customers have been convinced by our competition, sometimes even vendors, that the only wine worth drinking is a 1982 Chateau Margaux. And you should buy a case …just in case there’s a rainy day. Now, Chateau Margaux 1982 is a lovely bottle …and I’m sure Mrs. PL would love you to drop one by …but at £860 a bottle I’m not convinced it is really good value for money. And here’s the key …we have customers who have bought CASES of this stuff and haven’t even drunk 30% of what they’ve bought, yet keep getting told that the only ‘safe’ choice is another case of the same!
There is an argument to made for blind tastings in the storage world, and to be fair there are independent consulting companies who do these types of ‘speeds and feeds’ testing. However, this isn’t the point I’m driving to …and not where our value as Computacenter truly lies.
No, I’m arguing two things; one, we need to be better sommeliers and listen to our customers business issues so that we can help them select the most appropriate wine …and two, we shouldn’t be afraid to recommend the Computacenter house wine when the customer doesn’t express a preference.
What does this mean? Well, if we take storage consolidation for example, why couldn’t we blend IBM XiV plus IBM nSeries plus F5 Acopia plus Softek bottled with a Computacenter label which shows predictive storage spend and predictive customer savings. If monsieur would prefer another winery or vintage we would of course be happy to oblige, but the house wine is lovely, very attractively priced, and the quality is guaranteed! If we took storage virtualisation as another area, we could certainly recommend a nice bottle of HDS USPV which not only tastes great, but also has the ability to give you 30% more wine even after you’ve consumed the bottle! [More on that in another Weekly View.]
After all, that is what customers are truly after whether it be wine or storage. A reasonable price with a predictable outcome. Will you get a great tasting wine for £860? Probably, although nothing is guaranteed …and for my money, I’d much prefer the £12 which the sommelier has assured me tastes just fine.