Interview with Dr Alea Fairchild (@AFairch), Cofounder of The Constantia Institute

January 7, 2013

By @Rose_at_O, @Olivia_at_O

Alea Fairchild is the cofounder of The Constantia Institute, a Brussels-based technology policy think-tank. Check out her work blog or catch her on Twitter.


Q.  Tell us a bit about yourself: 

I am a cross between an analyst, a consultant and an academic, which sounds like one of those bad “three men in a boat” jokes.  I started my career in technology market analysis in the late 1980s at Dataquest with the great Hal Feeney (one of the Intel 8008 processor designers), moved later to my own technology consultancy company, which also did due diligence work for a number of VCs, and then I got my PhD in Information Economics in 2001, so I also teach at a graduate business program in Brussels.  All three skill sets help me do my research in my particular niche.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your firm and their interest in the cloud.   

I cofounded The Constantia Institute in 2007 when I realized that there was a market niche that was absent in the marketplace.  Lots of analyst firms cover product introductions and make product comparisons, but in my view, the relevance of technology trends, its innovative impact on business and society, and its governance were not examined in any depth by either analyst firms or consultancies. I use the term “think tank” because we actually think past the short term and examine consequences and issues. Cloud is a game changer for many aspects, including collaboration, regulation, data protection, governance, privacy, device usage and service provisioning. Let’s face it; governmental involvement in cloud – whether it be localized with the UK CloudStore or the EU’s attempts at regulation – is a sure sign that cloud is now mainstream.

Q. What’s hot in the cloud this year? 

Mobile, social and collaborative are the three consumer drivers for cloud, and all cause enterprise-sized headaches. And for businesses, it is about scalability, virtualization and performance. One area of interest is cloud for innovative business models, such as industry-specific cloud services or ecosystems.

Q. How many events do you attend each year? 

Unlike some analyst colleagues who live on an airplane, I attend only a handful of events each year, as I specifically target my attendance to ones that I feel are relevant, such as cloud, storage networking, and privacy events.

Q. Which one are you most looking forward to? 

Cloud Expo Europe (obviously) J. I spend my time at events in a combination of speaking, briefings, sessions and spontaneous meetings at booths.  Usually, I set goals for myself in what I want to achieve at an event, in terms of learning, networking and information dissemination.

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

Industry shifts, innovative business models and use case scenarios that show innovative technology use or business enhancement.

Q. How many briefings do you do per week? 

For me, I participate on the basis of outcomes for both parties.  If it is my research area and I can add value for the briefing party, then it is worthwhile.  My goal for briefings is not how many, but what information they provide and how the information is utilized. But in high season, there could be quite a chunk of them (6-8 per week).

Q. What’s the best way to pitch a company or an idea to you?

Email and Twitter are my main communication mediums, although anyone who knows me will tell you I love to talk!

Q. Who is worth listening to (about the cloud)? 

Legal aspects would be Frank Jennings as well as the folks at the Cloud Security Alliance; technical and innovative aspects would be Jonathan Bryce (OpenStack) and Todd Paoletti (Akamai), respectively. Privacy is a critical cloud issue, and there are a number of interesting folks on several continents for this.

Q. What’s your favorite blog?

Cloud technology blogs: CloudTweaks  and Phil Wainwright. Other blogs: I like digital marketing blogs, so that would be TwistImage’s Six Pixels of Separation, Jim Joseph’s blog (claim to fame: we went to college together), and Olivier Blanchard’s blog.

Q. What is your favorite piece of technology?

My car. No kidding. It is high tech, and I spend a significant amount of time in it. Heads up phone display, iPod and other gadgets are integrated. I grew up in California, where a girl and her car are not soon parted.

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

Techies say OpenStack and other commercial folks would tell you the most important development is that “must-have” apps from the likes of Google and Microsoft are driving usage. Consumers would point to collaboration possibilities from the likes of Dropbox and Box. For me as an OpenForum Academy (OFA) fellow (sorry, had to give it a plug…), the most important cloud development to date is open standards development to enable cloud market growth.

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

Although product (service) speeds and feeds may be important, I want to understand where the company and its portfolio of offerings fit into the marketplace and in the minds of enterprises. Business issues, solution offerings and process concerns are also key to my analytical interest.

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

The best was recent trip to SNW Europe in Frankfurt. It was very well organized and I got lots of good-quality briefings in a short period of time.

The worst was a number of years ago. Unisys took a group of journalists and analysts on a sailing trip on the coast of Ireland. They made us race each other on rough waters, and then they served a lobster lunch, which seemed to be made for “over the side” lunch repeats.

Q. What’s your favorite restaurant?

Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill in Hawaii! I love sushi and am an active carnivore, but I am not that much into heavy or rich foods. And frankly, I do not eat out much as 10 out of 12 months a year I am on a dietary regime. Please see the unusual hobby below, this will explain this comment.

Q. Are you a social media lover? Which ones do you use?

Given my research focus on privacy, I do not work on Facebook. I also find it exclusive, not inclusive, in terms of networking. Twitter allows you to interact concisely with interesting people you may not have had the opportunity to interact with before, so I am frequently engaged with tweets. As for LinkedIn, it is great for keeping up with friends and former colleagues, or for checking out old hairdos from 10 years ago before a briefing call 😉

Q. Tell us something no one knows about you. A Fairchild June 2012

I have a rather unusual hobby. I am a competitive Olympic Masters weightlifter for Belgium, and have won European and World Masters medals for the last six years.  But don’t worry; I do not lift people, furniture or luggage. It’s in the contract!

Q. Why do you love being an analyst?

As an objective observer, you get to help firms see the forest for the trees, and even identify the incoming inclement weather from your personal radar. And as a strong and opinionated person, I get to be strong and opinionated.

Copyright ©Launchpad Europe 2013. 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 Countdown2CloudExpo.com, the original source of the work.

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