May the force be with you
Journalists are hopelessly addicted to the newest, coolest technologies to hit the street. To a certain extent that's good, as part of our job is to get you information about emerging trends or technologies as soon as possible, so you have ample time to consider if they might be useful in your environments. But the "wow" factor can be like a drug to some of us covering storage, as we're forever hoping to be the one to pull the covers off some new "disruptive" technology that will forever change the way storage gets done.
Luckily, there's an antidote to the allure of the bleeding edge: talking with the people who use these technologies--or are trying to use them--on a day-to-day basis. I started thinking about this as we put together last month's "Hot technologies for 2007" article. Our take on "hot" isn't about stuff that might become products in five or 10 years, but rather on what can add a little sizzle to your shop right now. We try to work our way through a haze of hype to find the technologies that are warm enough now (with a detectable pulse) to become hot in short order.
But we just make the choices, you're the final arbiters. If you buy and use a particular technology implementation, and maybe even come back for more, it's hot. Or maybe a better word would be "useful." And while timing isn't everything, it's still key to the acceptance or rejection of a technology.
Sometimes, good ideas aren't enough. Take two product technologies that are getting a lot of attention: iSCSI storage and continuous data protection (CDP). There's no single reason why one technology will catch on while another might languish, but these two illustrate how the "wow" factor can quickly fade.
According to a recent report from IDC, after slower growth in the first half of last year, sales of iSCSI SANs "returned to triple-digit year-over-year growth in the third quarter." Yes, it says triple digit. But that level of interest is still pretty recent. iSCSI is interesting; the tweaked SCSI interface is relatively new stuff, but the concept is based on TCP/IP, which is an ancient technology, given the breakneck pace of the tech industry.
There was some interest in the economies iSCSI afforded, but not much enthusiasm until vendors listened to users' concerns about reliability and performance. Now many of today's iSCSI systems are hosting critical apps and iSCSI is hot.
CDP is another story. It features some truly innovative technology that addresses real problems related to data protection. But while CDP has gained accolades and considerable interest from many quarters, most users are still kicking the tires of this technology.
The issue with CDP isn't whether or not it's useful--the technology is high on the cool factor scale and it's easy enough to see how it can fix some of the broken parts of backup. The problem is figuring out how to fit it into existing backup operations. Users want the benefits CDP promises, but they don't want another backup app to maintain and administer, and they don't necessarily want to see another big bite taken out of their backup budgets. So, for a couple of years, CDP has been idling at the curb like some flashy new sports car everyone ogles but doesn't dare own.
That's likely to change soon. Vendors of CDP products and traditional backup apps quickly noticed that this technology wasn't exactly flying off the shelves. So they listened to users and heard their beefs. Users want CDP integrated into their backup applications; they want it easy to implement; and they want to be able to justify its cost to the guy in the corner office. And all of this is happening.
For technology--especially in the realm of storage, where change is slow and often not without pain--the place where the rubber hits the road is called reality. And, thankfully, that reality is controlled by people like you who can bring journalists--and vendors--back to earth.