Don't let vendor doublespeak prevent you from innovating

Storage Bin: Don't let vendor doublespeak prevent you from innovating.

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I was chatting with our analysts a few days ago and an interesting--yet disturbing--event came up. Seems one of our folks was talking with a pretty large IT shop about a new technology company. The IT staff, (CIO, director and storage admins) got on a conference call and asked us what we thought of this stealth mode company that gave them an interesting pitch. Having heard the pitch already, we tried to show the IT folks both sides...

of a potential deal--the risks and the rewards.

The senior IT folks were intrigued. They then went down to the storage admin, who had a minor heart attack. This is a fairly progressive shop, mind you, and this happens all the time. The business issues that appealed to the higher-ups were simple--implementing this new technology enables them to provide quality of service for their storage area network (SAN), which helps them provide really granular service levels to their internal customers. The storage admin cares about different things--putting together an infrastructure that works and is supportable. Hence the problem.

Turns out this IT shop runs disk arrays from HDS and IBM. Their switches are from McData. Their servers are IBM, Sun, and various Windows stuff. Now here's the disturbing thing.

The admin said some of the vendors mentioned that the XYZ product wasn't "qualified," alluding to the fact that if something goes haywire, they would point the finger and leave the IT shop in a quandary. How very '80s. I haven't heard that threat since the last Flock of Seagulls record. The fact that they'd even allude to that is irritating.

Get it in writing
Here's the lesson to poor IT folks and smaller vendors getting subtly threatened with a lack of support by the big dogs-tell them to put it in writing. I can pretty much guarantee you they won't. It didn't work 15 years ago, and it sure as heck ain't gonna work now. The FUD factor-fear, uncertainty and doubt-that a sales guy creates is completely contrary to the messages we've all been hearing from vendors.

For example, if vendor X says, "If you buy from vendor Y, we won't be able to support your environment." Time for a new sales tactic. The industry keeps telling you as long as you adhere to the SNIA interop standards, life is bowl of cherries. I really couldn't believe what I was hearing.

All you start-ups, listen up. Make darn sure that you're part of the interop movement, and that you can say you play by the rules. You better be heading down a CIM road.

You users, make sure your vendors play by the same rules. Then tell Mr. X to pound sand. I'm pretty sure that if vendor X was dumb enough to try to make good on the threat, another vendor would love to come on in and support your infrastructure.

In reality, if you talked to any senior person at any of these companies, they'd tell you the interoperability qualification is important (it is), but that as long as the new piece adheres to the standards of the day, it should only be a matter of time.

We can't listen to vendors babble incessantly about how important interop and standards are, how committed they are to them for the benefit of the almighty user and then talk out of their "other end" and say no to a new player.

And now for something completely different ...

When I was spouting "cool stuff from people you never heard of" at SNW in October, I inadvertently left InterSAN off of the provisioning list. They just did a deal with HDS and are clearly worth consideration. My bad.

Hey, guess who the biggest storage management software player in the world is? Microsoft. Yep, Excel is the most widely used tool to manage storage assets. How ridiculous.

Everyone is talking about data lifecycle management, but how will that work in transaction-oriented OLTP environments? I can see non-transactional benefits clearly, but can't get my brain around what happens when you move some "parts" of Oracle around. Princeton Softech is the only one I've found that's thinking about this part of the world.

This was first published in December 2002

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