Rob Gordon is a seasoned architect with a primary focus on storage architectures. Rob has worked closely with all levels within an organization resulting in high-level and deep technical discussions to provide understanding of complex storage systems. He shares his thoughts here on the storage industry and data management industry.
You’ve been in the storage industry for several years now. What did you do before IT and why did you decide to make the leap into storage?
RG: Early in my career I was a tubular heater designer and piping designer within the manufacturing industry. I also taught college algebra in a bar.
I have so many questions…go on.
RG: In 1999, I leapt into IT and I loved it because people didn’t know much about it then. Over the past 20 years I have run global data centers, been a director of storage at an ISP and sold storage to enterprise customers. In the end, I wound up being a Field CTO at NetApp where I focused on the Department of Defense, intelligence community and government agencies. In my view, storage is the most critical part of IT and it’s also the most expensive component.
Why did you join Komprise and what do you see as the greatest challenges of our customers?
RG: I was looking to do something that was a fresh approach for the industry, as well as a solution I really believed I could evangelize, and Komprise was it. As a result of my experiences, I know the pain of managing storage.
The storage professional is always asking people to delete or move data manually to preserve space and hopefully defer costs.
This tactic never solves the problem and doesn’t reduce IT costs; it often results in burning valuable man hours and costing more. With Komprise, that conversation stops. From the end-user perspective, Komprise makes data management and tiering transparent. Being vendor agnostic is another huge benefit. Our customers can leave Komprise whenever they want. It’s about managing their data, not locking them into yet another proprietary storage solution.
What are data storage people like?
RG: Storage administrators have one of the most thankless and stressful jobs in the IT industry. The only feedback storage admins get is when things go south and people can’t find their data or access is slow. Storage admins tend to take their job very seriously and many are hyper-focused on making sure things run smoothly every day. Those who have been working in the industry for years hold onto their knowledge, feeling that they are irreplaceable. Vendors with the right solutions can make the job of storage managers and architects easier and less stressful. With the proper tools, like Komprise, storage admins can perform deep analytics that save a lot of time and hassle.
Komprise can not only show how a storage manager can save $500,000 a year, but also give them the tools to do it.
Then, they have an opportunity to become a hero across the organization. This results in greater trust among peers and stakeholders and frees up time to focus on what they love to do— which is evaluating new technologies and focusing on corporate or business goals as opposed to fighting fires day in and day out.
How do you get through the hype of tech when engaging with a senior IT director?
RG: The conversation has to be about them and their needs. Sales engineers sometimes struggle because they get too technical. Take the time to find out what the customer cares about and speak to that. This might be cutting data storage costs or facilitating easier migrations or moving to the cloud faster. Be honest about what you can and can’t do for them. At the end of the day, you just want to have a conversation with the IT leader. Resist the urge to “just do the pitch.”
What are the big gaps right now in data storage technologies from the customer perspective?
RG: Most of the time, storage managers do not fully understand the data that they manage. How much is personal data? How much is video files that are taking up too much space and nobody needs them anymore? Is all the data that they are storing on expensive technology warrant the same level of performance and reliability? Ironically, many enterprise IT infrastructure people have been burned by the move to the cloud because it was supposed to be cheaper, but it ended up being more expensive over time. Most often this is a result of not understanding their data or not knowing what to move to the cloud and what to keep on premises. What if we could show you a picture of your entire environment, indicating that you don’t need to buy a new storage array but you can take 70 or 80% of all your data and either delete it or store it in cheaper secondary storage in your data center or in the cloud? That allows executives to make the right decisions.
Outside of work, what do you do?
RG: I love to cook, and I especially like baking bread and dry aging steaks. I also enjoy cycling and scuba diving. I go to a quarry near where I live in St. Louis or travel to North Carolina – although of course the Caribbean is the best for scuba diving. Remote working and no travel because of COVID allowed me to explore lots of unusual hobbies. This past winter, I tapped my maple tree in the back yard and made syrup, just to see if you could do it in Missouri. However, my biggest passion is to fix bottlenecks—any type of bottleneck at home, work, or play. This is perhaps why I like Komprise so much. Komprise solves some of the largest IT bottlenecks in the industry: knowing, controlling and managing data.