Vendors pump cash into independent storage user group

The Association for Storage Networking Professionals, a self-proclaimed independent storage user group, has recruited EMC and QLogic as sponsors. How will this impact the direction of the group?

With more than 1,500 members and 26 chapters all over the world, the Association for Storage Networking Professionals...

(ASNP) is billed as the largest vendor-independent storage user organization in existence. But now the ASNP has brought on EMC Corp., Hopkinton, Mass., and QLogic Corp., Aliso Viejo, Calif., as "top-level" vendor sponsors, a move that brings the group's independent status into question.

However, early indications are that vendor sponsorships don't matter to ASNP members.

Scott Blancett, senior project manager for Johns Manville Corp., a Denver, Colo.-based manufacturer of building insulation, commercial roofing and specialty products, is not concerned with vendors sponsoring the ASNP. In fact, he thinks users have a louder voice as a result. "I could care less who is a sponsor as long as their funding allows us to get our message out there, and I think the influence goes the other way. We have a greater voice within those companies since they're paying good money to get their name out there," he said. "I am happy to have sponsors as I can now use it as a nice big stick to beat both them and other vendors up with."

Blancett joined the ASNP to be a resource and to learn from others' experiences. "I hope to provide the industry with a clear picture or a common voice of where the "pain points" are from those of us who actually have to use their products in the real world."

Max Shu, vice president of the ASNP, maintains that the group keeps vendors at arm's length. Shu said a slew of storage professionals who worked for vendors tried to join the ASNP, but were rejected. She said bringing vendors on as sponsors rather than members was a better approach. "It enables vendors to be involved while enabling us to maintain our independence," said Shu.

As top sponsors of the ASNP, EMC and QLogic now have access to the group's users in various ways. The vendors can speak at ASNP chapter meetings, sponsor ASNP newsletters and conduct customized feedback programs, such as beta tests, surveys and focus groups.

Shu doubts vendor sponsorship will change the ASNP in any way, but it's up to end users to make up their own minds. "Since we just brought on the sponsors, I guess we'll see what our members think. It's up to the user to decide," Shu said.

She may be right. An overwhelming 62% of respondents to a recent SearchStorage.com poll said they would join a vendor independent storage user group regardless of vendor sponsorship, while only 33% of those polled said they would examine a user group's agenda before joining.

"It made perfect sense for us to join ASNP as a premier sponsor, as we can obtain feedback at all stages in the product cycle, from beta testing and product development to launching solutions in the market," said Frank Berry, vice president of corporate marketing at QLogic.

The ASNP serves as a network for end users to share common storage problems, find jobs and research products and technologies. The group is currently working toward providing end users with a set of best practices for data retention and archiving strategies and is providing the Storage Networking Industry Association with user feedback for the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S).

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