Q&A with Martin Banks, Business Cloud 9

February 3, 2012

Photo taken by fellow hack, Eric Doyle, on board one of Larry Ellison’s yachts

By Rose Ross (@Rose_at_O)

Q.  Tell us a bit about yourself: 

Depends on which bit you want to know. I’ve been doing this longer than most PR people have been alive, I would guess. Started out on the journalism thing in 1968, having trained as a Technical Author at Hawker Siddeley Aviation (de Havilland  Aircraft as was). So anything you need to know about overhauling an old 125 executive jet, I’m you man. I was on the staff of magazines like Electronic Equipment News and Design Electronics. I was also a correspondent for Electronics Weekly and Computer Weekly, where the late Guy Kewney and I had a friendly rivalry covering the emergence of Microcomputers and the PC. I’ve been freelance since 1982, which included a couple of spells with analyst companies – Macintosh Consultants (early 1980s) and Bloor Research (late 2000s). I even worked on the dark side, with John Fowler and Partners, for about 18 months back in mid-70s.

Q. Tell us a little bit about the titles you write for and their interest in virtualization. 

Two main jobs these days. I’m Infrastructure Editor of Business Cloud 9 and the publishers, Sift Media have recently given me the role of launch editor on Platform Cloud 9. So I’m interested in anything to do with the `how’ of making the cloud work, from apps development through to alternative delivery models such as SaaS, private and hybrid cloud – actually, of course, it’s all just cloud. But I’m not that fussed about `cool technology’ for its own sake. Indeed, I keep threatening to kick the next person who says `cool technology’ somewhere deeply personal. But I haven’t…….yet…….

Q. What’s hot in cloud this year? 

This is the year it starts to become mundane – part of the furniture. It’s also the year when most of the traditional software vendors stop attaching the word `cloud’ to their products in the hope of appearing `cool’ and relevant. This, of course, also means it’s the year when it starts to make a real impact on businesses and how they operate.

Q. How many events do you attend each year? 

As it often means schlepping into London, which over the years has become a place I could happily live without, I try to keep it to no more than one a week. I often fail, of course.  

 Q. Which one are you most looking forward to? 

Next month, the Parallels Summit in Orlando. They are a company offering what the world needs, even if it doesn’t know it yet – really targeting the SME space. They’ll exploit cloud much better than other companies.

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

Half the fun of this business is that you never really know until it smacks you in the face. But in general terms anything that helps decerebralise the cloud (make it a `no brainer’) for existing businesses to transform themselves. Anything that helps them consider, plan and execute transitions from on-premise to cloud.

Q. How many briefings do you do per week? 

I guess about two or three. It varies as it always has done.

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

Email to start with is usually best. And as long as the pitch gets straight to the point rather leading off with the usual `my client is the world’s leading……..’ stuff it will very probably work out OK.

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

About storage? I try to look at it all as a bigger picture than just one corner of technology. For example, a large percentage of storage could be shed if applications vendors had been a bit more disciplined about how they write apps. One of the major drawbacks these days is while the cloud is turning fundamental concepts around and making technology stacks increasingly irrelevant, the technology vendors are largely trying even harder to elevate the importance of their technology bit.

Q. What’s your favourite blog?

Don’t actually have one

Q. What is your favourite piece of technology?

Just about any acoustic musical instrument. Nothing can beat the impact of that man-machine interface. Oh sorry, I guess you didn’t mean that. OK, the microprocessor. It took semiconductor technology to whole new level and without it, all the rest of stuff IT has produced would junk and door-stops. Let’s face it, `IT’ would still be stuck at the IBM 360 mainframe level and the prediction of their being only six computers in the world would probably be right.

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

It hasn’t quite happened yet. It will be when vendors and IT departments realise it is not about the technology per se any more, but about what constitutes the services the users need and why they need them to meet their business objectives? And there is, increasingly, new ways opening up of building those services regardless of technology or the constraints that tech vendors try to put on them. An example is OnLive Desktop which gives Apple iPad users Microsoft Office as a SaaS service. Not sure why anyone would want that, personally, but some people are very big on being seen with an iPad.

Q. What is the best piece of advice for companies to brief you?

It depends a bit on how grumpy I might be feeling! But get to the point of why you think I might be interested. Saying things like `my client’s CTO would like to meet you’ just leaves me admiring their obvious good taste, but wondering `why’. Even adding a vague insult – “because he thought that piece you wrote on NNN was complete tosh” – will help. I’m up for a meaningful discussion and I’m not phased by being proved wrong (not that I EVER am, of course).

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

There have been so many…….A Texas Instruments trip to Monte Carlo possibly. But even that was a Curate’s Egg of an affair. It was a user conference where the press were trapped in a side room with visiting `talking head’ execs appearing and just reading out the press backgrounders we’d already had for a week. We tried to get to speak to users but were physically barred from the conference sessions. The upside was that we decided to abandon the conference and sit on the beach for a day and a half. It was a  strange, but warm, stand-off.

Q. What’s your favourite restaurant?

If you mean London then it’s The Gay Hussar in Greek Street. Or Le Clodoald in Saint Cloud, Paris, though it’s been a while since I’ve been there.

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

Been doing social media since the mid-80s with CIX, like many of the `more mature’ hacks. That was the freelance’s office gossip machine. I’m on Facebook, and have an unused Twitter account. But spending time telling my followers I’ve just been to the toilet is not a high priority with me.

Q. How do you like to get away from it all?

I own a narrow boat on the Old Union Canal called Water snail and it goes just about as fast. So I enjoy getting away on the boat. I’ll still have to work there, of course, but all that new-fangled technology gubbins does provide some advantages. I can still go cruising at the same time. I also like to get away from it all at Folk Festival. My favourite ones include Sidmouth and Towersey and Roger’s  Rant in Dorset.

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

I once played in a ceilidh dance band in the unfinished Reading Room of the new British Museum. Great sound, and a great dance floor.


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