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References, Please

And make 'em real ones this time

1:00 PM -- Call me a grinch, but this Yuletide has featured an unusually large number of storage testimonials posing as customer and/or analyst references.

Halloween's long gone, but some storage vendors are confusing their holidays, judging by the following poseurs the season has drawn out of the woodwork:

  • The head of IT for a major New York radiology center, who replaced its primary storage supplier from Hopkinton with a startup -- and who, a phone call reveals, doesn't even work at the center full time.

  • The manager of an "IT services firm," whose adoption of a major data classification and search tool was prompted by his reseller relationship with the vendor.

  • The financial services outfit that replaced a major SAN supplier with -- you guessed it -- a startup, without revealing that it helped fund said startup.

  • The IT manager of a bank who went on record endorsing a WAFS product that in fact was part of a big, discounted installation by his chief networking supplier -- and for which he never made any comparison review.

  • The expert on federal law who is overly eager to comment on her firm's latest study on compliance -- a study that turns out to be commissioned by a software vendor.

There's nothing new about all this, which is why we still have journalism schools. But this kind of fluffy marketing seems to have reached new highs -- or lows.

No one's apologizing for any of it. When I confronted the representative of the federal expert, she said that just because her client commissioned a report didn't mean she couldn't comment objectively. And in several recent instances, vendors have refused to provide user contacts to testify about their wares, offering up VARs and resellers instead.

The message seems to be that it's okay to go to market with trumped-up references, as long as the vested interest isn't hidden from view. Certainly, there wasn't any actual double dealing in any of the above examples.

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