WP010 - The fluffy, leather chair interview, or, Do you think the edge forces you to go hybrid?” or, there’s a lot of high-dollar farts in those chairs
Software Defined Talk Members Only White Paper Exegesis Podcast, episode #10
Coté & Brandon Whichard, October 2017.

The big fluffy, leather chair interview is a staple of the tech world now. A big named executive (usually) comes up on the stage with a big name journalist and is interviewed in a “wide ranging” discussion. In addition to videos of these being broadcast, tech outlets often write summaries - news stories even - based on the interviews, and others sometimes post “lighted edited transcripts.” One of our favorite news sites, CRN, does this often. And while they do the sleazy thing of making 20-35 pages out of what should be a, at most, two page story, they’re usually good interviews if you’re into the the topic. Continuing a discussion we started in SDT #108,  we look at three of these interviews, giving us the chance to a close reading of the interviews 
themselves and talk about the format in general.

The three interviews: (1.) Meg Whitman, HPE; (2.) Steve Singh, Docker; (3.) Pat Gelsinger, VMware. All of them, of course, are CEOs.

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Opening act - finding my tattoo story.

  • The battle over VMs, containers, public/private, etc. “I’m sorry, I COTS hear you.”
  • Does anyone really do DevOps.
  • Selecting a backpack.

Macro

  • “Channel” means all the not-you people who help you make money, either by selling your product/service directly (re-sellers), helping install it (system integrators, mostly), or bundling/pairing it with their own things (partners, usually, or “VARs”). People often say the channel.” 
  • The term has some foggy history in early corporate strategy think where you’d have to identify the “channels” by which you brought your product to market and transacted. 
  • Revenue from the channel isn’t often thought about, but it tends to be a massive chunk of large tech co.’s revenue; think HPE, VMware, and especially Microsoft with Windows on PCs. 
  • In each of these interviews, the battle between VMware, public cloud, and Docker comes up over and over again. This is one of those cemented tech media narratives that we discussed last episode: it’s impossible to get rid of, and you can tell (all but Docker’s CEO) really don’t like it.
  • One annoyingly accurate, and yet textbook example of Christensen disruption, is the “well, we just do what customers pay for, and, BTW, they pay for a lot - did I mention our revenue yet?”
  • Docker CEO interview
  • It’s initially odd to see the darling of hackernews at a channel
  • The role of the interviewer:
  • In theory, to ask questions the audience (both there and reading later) would want to ask.
  • Basic reporting gathering up facts; including obligatory questions about running for president.
  • Building up the interviewers research for stuff to use later.
  • Just getting through it.

Micro

  • Docker interview: for a startup - like Docker - getting engaged with the channel can massively scale up revenue, way beyond on “growth hacking” hijinks. You see Singh aggressively selling this idea when he says he’ll make the channel $7 for every $1 spent on Docker.
  • VMware interview: we still have a massive footprint in IT and no one knows how the future will pan out, we can probably simply transform our customers to it while retaining them. Also, IoT.
  • HPE: we’re stable, reliable, and know how to make you money. Also, there’s a lot of hardware still to be sold, and did I mention OpenView?
  • I just can’t get fully, emotionally connected to this IoT edge thing. I mean, sure. But, it all sounds like the kind of hype we’ve had in the past that needs to be walked back. For example: storage and big data. We’ll see.
  • In any HPE talk, somehow, OpenView always comes up.
  • Whitman’s answers show (for this kind of thing) a really detailed sales and comp strategy, and much awareness of how the channel fits into things. She very well explains to the audience how they can make money, right-up front, and the ongoing relationship with HPE.
  • On-prem versus public cloud, it’s all about cost: “Many, many people have said that what they love about the public cloud is not so much multi-tenancy, cloud technology, but the consumption-based pricing model. I only pay for what I need. You can get a consumption-based pricing model through Hewlett-Packard Enterprise for any of your customers. If they want to spend opex to have an on-prem private cloud, we can do that for you as opposed to have them lay out the capex. It's about where do the right workloads go and how do you counsel your customers about when they might head into a cloud cliff. Increasingly we are seeing companies that say this public cloud thing is great on some level, but I'm getting very deep to multiple public cloud providers and I'm feeling locked in and I'm seeing how expensive this can get. We're helping customers take their applications out of the public cloud, back onto on-prem so they have the customization ability, and frankly, it's more cost effective.”

Example of eyeball farming the crap out of these things, from Axios: