An Interview with TCI President and CEO, Debra Goldfarb

By Nicole Hemsoth

January 22, 2007

On Wednesday, Tabor Communications Inc. (TCI), publisher of HPCwire and GRIDtoday, named industry veteran Debra Goldfarb as president and CEO, effective immediately. Goldfarb replaces TCI founder and former president, Tom Tabor, who will remain with the company as chairman of the board and ambassador-at-large for the organization.

The company also announced a significant business expansion effort with the launch of three new operating companies, Tabor Research, Tabor Publications and Events, and Tabor Marketing Services. As TCI president, Goldfarb will oversee the formation and launch of the new operating companies.

In this interview, Goldfarb explains her decision to accept her new role as TCI president and CEO, and outlines a vision for the expanded organization.

Q: What was behind your decision to take over as president and CEO of Tabor Communications?

Goldfarb: There were several key factors that drew me in this direction.

The first, and certainly the most important, is that Tabor Communications is ideally positioned to be a pivotal force in delivering real value to the High Productivity Computing (HPC) marketplace — to vendors, end users and policy-makers — with innovative research and strategic consulting services. The foundation has already been established with an invaluable contact database, strong branding and a global reach to the HPC user community.

I should probably explain our definition of HPC. What we refer to as the 'old' definition of HPC, High Performance Computing, was the natural semantic evolution of the 'supercomputing' market, referring to the expanded and diverse range of platforms, from scalable high-end systems to COTS clusters, blade servers and of course the traditional vector supercomputers used to attack the most complex data- and computational-intensive applications. We believe one of the key mega-trends moving forward is the shift in focus towards productivity — or more precisely, how systems and technology are applied. This encompasses everything in the HPC ecosystem, from the development environment, to systems and storage, to the use and interoperability of applications, to the total user experience — all combined to address and solve real world problems. Our use of HPC refers to High Productivity Computing, and reflects the purpose and use model of the myriad of existing and evolving architectures, and the supporting ecosystem of software, middleware, storage, networking and tools behind the next generation of applications.

The idea of being able to leverage the core business, a widely respected and recognized information portal, and expand that foundation into a broad range of service offerings for the HPC community, presents a unique opportunity. I see Tabor Communications playing a key role in building community and links among government, academic, industrial and business leaders and users in the expanding ecosystem of High Productivity Computing. My vision is to make the new Tabor Communications a powerful voice in shaping market opinion by delivering real insight on customer behavior and adoption dynamics, technology shifts, disruptive trends and broadening adoption of HPC.

I have been looking at this opportunity for some time. My own experience at IBM coupled with discussions with market leaders have convinced me there is an information gap that this new organization will fill. There is already a tremendous infrastructure in place, enabling us to immediately launch our new, expanded organization with world-class talent and a sophisticated portfolio of services.

My plan is to build a new organization to include the existing publishing business, a powerful, forward-looking Market Intelligence and Strategic Consulting group, and a world-class Marketing Communications and Marketing Support services group. These three separate operating companies will deliver unique products and services at virtually every touch point across the HPC ecosystem.

Q: Tabor Communications has been synonymous with its market leading publications, HPCwire and GRIDtoday. Do you have any plans to change the scope of these publications?

Goldfarb: The publications will now be part of a new company called Tabor Publications and Events. HPCwire and GRIDtoday are globally recognized brands with a growing readership that can't be denied. They have been extremely successful by filling a market need. In keeping with the times and the changing requirements of a broadening user and supplier community, my plan is to enhance even more the value of these publications with expanded end-user content, analysis and commentary, original reporting and a wider scope of coverage.

In addition to these cornerstone publications, I hope to explore opportunities for Tabor Publications to bring another custom published book to market, as well as to potentially expand into additional market segments with new publications – something I feel quite passionate about. 2007 will be a very exciting year from the publishing standpoint.

As far as our event business, we will be working with a number of our clients to produce events such as executive summits, industry showcases, VIP events, and regional panels and seminars based on timely discussion of key industry issues. Tabor Communications has a strong and respected track record in this space and we will draw upon that experience to bring a fresh approach to developing and managing events highlighting ecosystem issues and interaction.

Q: Can you expand on what you mean by a “forward-looking market research and insight consulting group?”

Goldfarb: To date, the only credible market research available to the HPC community is a quantitative recap that highlights the supply-side dynamics of the market — installations, revenue, and market share. It's what I refer to as a “rear view mirror” perspective. This research has value in that it can help a company understand how well the organization and its competitors have done, but it does not give any guidance on what companies need to do next. And that is the Holy Grail of strategic planning — to get perspective and insight on what is most important to users. This is critical for the suppliers in the HPC ecosystem seeking to make investment decisions based on how users will behave over time, and most importantly, what's next. Our design point is focused on providing a “headlights” view of the industry – on markets, technologies, customers and new opportunities. We know first hand that our customers are looking for a partner to provide insight on these issues.

Our plan is to leverage our extensive resources and use our reach into the heart of the HPC end-user community to deliver a range of offerings, including quantitative and qualitative survey-based research and advisory services, along with timely multi-client studies. In addition, Tabor Research will have a discrete organization to support our customers' needs for custom research and strategic consulting services. The key differentiator for Tabor Research will be its intense focus on what we refer to as “actionable insight.” This is something I can't emphasize enough. Our products will be both insightful and actionable, providing novel thinking about markets and market discontinuities, customers, business models and futures.

Q: Can you tell us more about the scope of topics to be covered by Tabor Research?

Goldfarb: It is my belief that to be of real value to our customers and to properly reflect their competitive landscape, we must provide a holistic view of the market. Therefore, Tabor Research will be covering the entire ecosystem of HPC, everything from hardware and software to interconnects, networks and services. We need to be able to help our customers better understand the complex tradeoffs which their customers make on a daily basis. Only by discussing market dynamics with a big picture perspective can we provide truly valuable insight.

Q. How will the new research organization be structured?

Goldfarb: Tabor Research, the market research, advisory and consulting organization is a completely new company and is independent of the Tabor Publications and Tabor Marketing Services companies. Additional announcements related to Tabor Research will be made in the near future.

Q: Please expand on your plans to offer “world-class marketing communications and marketing support services to your clients?

Goldfarb: The HPC community faces a particular challenge in terms of communicating internally to the HPC stakeholders and end users, as well as externally, beyond the boundaries of the HPC market segment. While the adoption of HPC within mainstream computing environments is starting to gain traction, the bi-directional communication challenge between two previously separated worlds continues to be an area that numerous organizations struggle with on a regular basis.

Tabor Marketing Services is a new organization with leadership that truly understands the marketing communications challenges of the HPC vendor and end-user stakeholders, and will offer a full portfolio of Marketing Support and Marketing Communications services designed to help organizations of all sizes, with both short-term and longer-term requirements.

For years, companies in the HPC ecosystem have voiced disappointment in working with marketing, advertising or PR agencies who don't understand the messaging or the audiences of this unique market segment. Tabor Marketing Services has been formed by merging the resources of Noblemen Communications and The Bernhardt Marketing Group into our organization, giving us an immediate staff of seasoned HPC communications professionals with an impressive track record that spans 19 years of successful HPC marketing programs.

Even those companies with existing marketing or PR agencies under contract, or sufficient internal resources to support their activities throughout most of the year, have indicated they will often go outside for additional short-term help to support product ramp activities, press and analyst tours and briefings, and trade shows. This is a critical need that Tabor Marketing Services plans to address. We will build a business model that allows us to accommodate the short-term, one-time support requirements of both vendors and end-user organizations with resources to address virtually all marketing communications requirements, from message development to strategic planning to tactical execution.

Our marketing support services will cover the entire spectrum of the marketing communications portfolio and have no direct connection to any of the other Tabor Communications companies. In other words, clients will be able to use Tabor Marketing Services for any communications program targeting virtually any market segment, publication or audience.

Q: Why do you believe the market and the HPC community will react positively to these new offerings?

Goldfarb: In early conversations with a number of market leaders from both the vendor and end-user communities, along with various policy makers and HPC industry stakeholders, we have repeatedly heard the same theme: The market is starved for insight. The vendor community in particular needs a fresh voice that brings together deep market experience with intelligent and practical analysis, and delivers timely actionable insight. We believe Tabor Research can deliver a much-needed service in this area. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and we believe the timing for this couldn't be better.

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