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Smart storage people still aren't demanding standards

Ezine

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I've been complaining about the lack of standards in this space forever, or so it seems. It boggles my mind to think that smart, hard-working people like yourselves will put up with stuff that either doesn't work as it should or doesn't work at all. I figured you'd demand standards, if for no other reason than to make sure that if stuff is going to break, it will fail consistently.

I recently spoke at the Storage Networking Industry Association's Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) conference. That's the industry's storage management standards play. I yelled at them. I begged them. I've been asking the industry to create real standards for the right reasons for years. This time, I came with ammo--I came with your wallets.

Let's start with the facts. We polled large-scale storage area network (SAN) shops (figuring that if they had SANs, then they already felt the pain of having no standards) where more than 60% had two to 10 SANs, 14% had one and 24% had more than 10 SANs. Here's what we found:

  • Eighty-nine percent of respondents said industry standards are either critical or important in their ability to effectively manage storage resources.
  • Sixty-one percent said it was important or very important that their strategic vendors be early adopters of standards.
  • Fifty-five percent said they will require their primary storage, switch and software vendors

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  • to be standards compliant within 12 months in order to buy from them.
  • Thirty-two percent said if their primary software vendor was compliant now they would increase spending on that vendor.
  • Nearly 50% of those polled had little to no idea what SMI-S even was.

When we tried to figure out the discrepancy between people clearly being sick of not having standards, yet not knowing about the industry's SMI-S initiative, one bright fellow from Nielsen Media Research had the answer: "They don't know they want standards; they just want stuff that works." Brilliant. Users don't care about standards--they just want to know that things will work in some repeatable, consistent way. They want to plug new stuff into their old environment and get benefits instead of heartburn.

I'm just happy that it appears you're finally willing to do something about it and vote with your wallets. Let's face it, that's the only way the industry will really do anything about these problems. You stopped buying during the downturn of the last few years and, lo and behold, the vendors starting working for a change. They jumped through hoops. Now you seem to have learned that if you want something done, flash the cash.

It's not an academic question when 49% of people tell us they want to add security to their storage infrastructure by adding it as a feature to existing products. How are you going to do that if it isn't standard? Add to that the 61% of users who said simplifying management of storage resources would be the reason they would choose to implement intelligence in the storage fabric. How do you pull that off without a standard way to interface into and out of the fabric itself? You don't.

So my vendor pals, it's time to cut the posturing, the PowerPoint and the doublespeak, and get on the standards stick. Otherwise, we're gonna beat you with it.

This was first published in January 2005

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