Storage Pipeline: First Person: Whose Storage Is It, Anyway?

Storage consumers must join forces to determine what we need and voice those needs.

November 5, 2003

2 Min Read
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From the storage manager's perspective, though, the blame belongs squarely on the vendors' doorsteps. Marketing hype has made it almost impossible to separate fact from fiction when it comes to storage gear.

To make matters worse, some storage vendors include a gag order of sorts in their product warranties, restricting their customers from making public statements about their products' performance. But if storage managers can't get real-world feedback from their peers, how can they make wise choices?

Standards? What Standards?

Another contributing factor to bad storage decisions: Vendors resist the creation of open standards because they fear commoditization and a corresponding plunge in profits. Each vendor aims to establish its proprietary storage technology as the de facto standard and, consequently, there's no guarantee any two vendors' products will interoperate.

In the absence of standards, vendors rely on API (application programming interface) "swaps" and "plugfests" to achieve a modicum of cooperation between disparate products. API swaps amount to little more than tactical treaties between players, delivering value to consumers only as long as the vendors reap commercial reward. Similarly, plugfests are vendors' attempts to develop work-arounds that enable their products to interoperate.But fear of single-vendor dominance also drives a spirit of "co-opetition," if only temporarily. In fact, the formation of the Storage Networking Industry Association ( in the late '90s was the industry's response to the growing hegemony of EMC Corp. But when such co-opetition ceases to provide significant perceived value, API swaps and vendor alliances typically end, and the customer is left holding the bag ... again.

Some vendors claim to be active participants in standards organizations such as ANSI and IETF. Truth be told, they participate just to ensure that the standards allow enough wiggle room for them to keep developing proprietary products that don't interoperate.

There's Power in Numbers

Storage consumers must join forces to determine exactly what we need and voice those needs in a way the vendors can't ignore. The Data Management Institute ( joint effort of CMP Media (this publication's parent company), Boston University and Toigo Partners International (my company)--is one such initiative. Local grassroots groups are also springing up. Ideally, such efforts will crescendo into a full-on consumer revolt, forcing the vendors to deliver the kind of storage infrastructure we need to provide the business value we've promised our employers and our users.

Jon William Toigo is CEO of storage consultancy Toigo Partners International and founder and chairman of the Data Management Institute. Write to him at [email protected].

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