Vendor surveys and surveys conducted by analysts at the big IT think tanks offer a steady stream of predictions and technical observations, but is any of it useful?
It's survey season once again, and it seems as if every vendor and analyst firm has some new tale to spin based on numbers gleaned from polling IT pros or perhaps just plucked out of thin air.
Try this one on for size: Gartner says 4.4 million IT jobs -- 1.9 million of them in the U.S. -- will be created by 2015 in support of big data. Wow, right? But wait, there's more. The press release announcing this employment windfall goes on to say, "Every big data-related role in the U.S. will create employment for three people outside of IT, so over the next four years a total of 6 million jobs in the U.S. will be generated by the information economy."
So, something called "big data" that nobody seems to be able to actually define will create millions of jobs in just a few years. For all we know, Gartner might be using a pretty loose definition of big data that could include hiring new baristas at the Starbucks where the software engineering team fuels up on Venti Americanos. Without some context, it's kind of hard to evaluate Gartner's prediction. I could tell you that small data is poised to create 10 million jobs by the end of 2013. I just made that up, but you get the point; and, by the way, it feels pretty good to make such sweeping, and positive, predictions.
But if you keep reading Gartner's press release, you don't get much of a chance to bask in the rosy glow of the prospect of widespread employment: "But there is a challenge. There is not enough talent in the industry. Our public and private education systems are failing us. Therefore, only one-third of the IT jobs will be filled."
Oof! We just went from millions of new jobs to failing education systems in two paragraphs of a press release. Gartner giveth and Gartner taketh away, I guess.
So what's the point of all this predicting and then hedging? I think they just like to say "big data" a lot, and make it sound like it's more than just an IT thing -- it's woven into the fabric of our lives and if you want to be "there" and help create millions of jobs, you should buy a lot of big data stuff. Gartner's beating that big data drum pretty relentlessly, which must be music to the ears of its storage and IT vendor clients.
All of that is a lot of prognosticating, so let's get to the actual polling. Lately, a lot of storage vendors are conducting their own surveys: some are scientific, a few are science projects and others are pure sci-fi. But regardless of the credibility and merits of vendor surveys, it's interesting to observe the spin they put on the results. For example, if I sell storage systems and my survey reveals that 73% of companies don't use storage, is that a good thing because I have a huge untapped market or bad news because nobody needs my product?
Symantec does a number of vendor surveys, including an annual disaster recovery/data protection survey that typically reveals that a huge number of responding companies are playing Russian roulette with their data. But I'm guessing that from Symantec's perspective, the more companies out there using prayer as their primary means of data protection, the better. After all, Symantec has backup apps, archivers, replicators and just about every handy tool you'd want in your data protection kit.
Another vendor survey -- this one conducted at VMworld by solid-state storage vendor STEC -- notes that 62% of respondents have solid-state storage installed. That makes it sound like a lot of solid-state storage has been sold and only 38% are doing without, and who knows how many of them are interested in flash? STEC's release describing the results also says, "Just 5% believe SSDs provide a competitive advantage, while 60% cite higher IOPS and faster response time." Speed thrills, but it seems that competitive advantage isn't all it's cracked up to be. Still, the STEC vendor survey has no trouble seeing the silver lining: "These survey results reflect the belief that next-generation applications across industries require enterprise SSDs with consistent, real-world performance so that companies can achieve higher IOPS and faster response times."
OK, so if a survey shows that nobody's using your product, it proves there's a crying need for that product. And if a survey shows that everyone's using your product, it proves there's a crying need for more of your product. It's a classic win-win … for the vendors at least. If you're a user trying to figure out if you need the product and who's using it, it's not much help.
My favorite vendor survey tidbit comes from Symantec's State of Information Survey: "Forty-two percent of business information is hard to find." Does that mean nobody's looking for the other 58%?
About the author:
Rich Castagna is editorial director of TechTarget's Storage Media Group.