Stop making sense out of the data storage market

We need a new rating system to sort out what's going on in the data storage market. Editorial Director Rich Castagna offers his system to readers.

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We need a new rating system to sort out what's really going on in the data storage market. Editorial director Rich Castagna offers his rating system to readers.

Gartner has its magic quadrants and troughs of disillusionment, but that just doesn't seem enough to properly classify everything that's going on in the data storage market these days. Somebody has to sort these things out if we're going to make sense of all the new technology developments, and how they're being bent and reshaped to fit into various vendors' narratives.

I'll do it.

I'd like to introduce the Hype, Hope or Hoo-ha rating system. This extremely unscientific and almost totally subjective system will rate the latest and greatest buzzwords being bandied about the storage world so you can figure out what to pay attention to and what you should ignore.

First, let's define our terms. Hype refers to a real, and probably very useful, technology that's getting way too much spin from marketers. In this category, you'll find solid, relatively new entries that are good matches for some shops, but they come with so much hyperbole and hard sell that you can be turned off before you've even tried them. The Hope classification is for those technologies that work and you like, but they're accompanied by phone calls and pitches from vendors who hope you'll buy even more. Hoo-ha is just what it seems -- bull, balderdash, baloney, bunk, bosh -- and refers to imaginary products that address imaginary problems with imaginary effectiveness.

For some examples of the Hype, Hope or Hoo-ha rating system at work, I'll start with my favorite whipping boy: software-defined storage (SDS). While it lingered between Hype and Hope for a while, the term has been used indiscriminately and so often that it's finally plunged into the depths of Hoo-ha. This was particularly evident when EMC rolled out its SDS product with the pitch that nobody really knows what software-defined storage means but here's our product that we call software-defined storage. It was a fairly adept attempt to hijack the term and make it its own, so if EMC wants to own that kind of Hoo-hah I guess it's welcome to it.

Contending for the Son of Hoo-ha award is the latest something-defined-something buzzword: Data-defined storage. No kidding, I saw it in a press release. We now have software-defined storage and data-defined storage, but why stop there? How about definition-defined storage? It's kind of a do-it-yourself approach to storage marketing. Apparently, wherever and whatever you decide defines storage is fine, as long as it makes a good acronym.

The Hope category is more civil, mainly because the technologies do most of the talking for themselves. I'd put solid-state storage in the Hope ranks. No one disputes that it's cool stuff that runs circles around traditional disk-based storage. It's also finding its way into storage shops both large and not so large. Solid-state storage fits snugly into Hope because storage vendors are furiously trying to convince anyone who owns, plans to buy or is even just looking longingly at a storage system that if they don't include some solid-state (heck, supersize my order and make the whole thing solid-state) then why bother? The biggest factor for the Hope classification is that vendors hope you see how different their products are from everyone else's even though they're the same. As they say, hope springs eternal.

Hype is shaping up to be the most crowded classification in my system. It's almost too easy to tag things with the hype label, but let's start with the mother of all Hype, big data. The ability to analyze tons of seemingly unrelated, unstructured data is a real quest for many firms -- mostly big companies with big ideas about all that untapped knowledge they hope to set free. But c'mon storage vendors, it's hard to believe that every product out there is an essential component of an infrastructure to support big data analytics. But the hype is a relentless deluge of big data storage systems, big data host bus adapters, big data cables and big data racks. The sad part is that companies looking for products to support their big data efforts probably can't find them in this haze of marketing zeal.

Now that I have this rating system in place, I'm going to need some kind of graphic representation if I want it to catch on. Quadrants and troughs are already taken. Thumbs up/down? Nah, too Roman coliseum. Smiley/frowny faces? Too cute.

I guess I need to head back to the drawing board, but first I have to read this press release about a solid-state device that enables big-data-defined storage.

About the author: 
Rich Castagna is editorial director of TechTarget's Storage Media Group.

This was first published in August 2013

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