Storage Smackdown

Storage vendor blogs are a good place to find product information, technical analysis, and the best trash-talking in the IT industry

March 7, 2009

4 Min Read
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There is a long-standing tradition in the tech industry of bad-mouthing products and services offered by competitors. Usually that's been done at tradeshows and in private customer meetings. But nothing matches storage vendor executives, who use their corporate and personal blogs to take trash-talking to new heights. Aside from the entertainment value, these rants and raves often can provide some useful information. After all, who better to highlight the flaws in a product than a competitor that's battling against it for sales and market share?

Storage vendors have embraced the interactive online world and have pretty sophisticated Websites with tons of info on their products and services, customer case studies, and other marketing information. The sites can be helpful if you want to learn more about a company's offerings, product roadmap, philosophy, and views on technology developments. They usually have much more information than contained in press releases, and usually have links to more details and specs.

One of the surprising things is just how many executives at storage vendors have active blogs. Many of the major storage and systems vendors seem to have dozens of blogs. And the executives and product managers aren't afraid of expressing themselves in frank terms about virtually any topic. It is a big change from the old days when vendor executives were cautious and circumspect in public, especially when discussing competitors and their products.

That was then, this is now. Today, nobody seems shy about attacking competitors. Take this EMC blog post under the headline "Frankenstorage Defined" that starts off by talking about Hitachi, IBM and NetApp. Here is an HDS blog post on IBM's XIV storage system and its "architectural limitations." Here is a NetApp blog taking a shot at an EMC executive in one of the posts. Look at just about any blog written by an executive at a storage vendor and in many of them you'll find them saying bad things about their rivals.

Sometimes it just gets silly -- and then gets serious. Take the recent brouhaha over the definition and use of enterprise flash drives. EMC's Barry A. Burke decided to take on just about every other storage vendor (Sun, HP, Hitachi, IBM, and NetApp) that has ever mentioned solid-state disk technology in a blog post that used the movie Flashdance as its theme. And he slapped the title of a song from the movie on each rival, so Hitachi is "Manhunt" and IBM is "He's a Dream." It's actually a pretty amusing approach. Burke's main point was that "almost all of them have finally realized that EMC was right over a year ago -- the first place we're going to see benefits from flash technology is indeed as a new tier in high performance storage arrays."That's what we used to call "flame bait" and just begs for nasty responses -- which it got. One NetApp blog post talked about Burke's "world's longest run-on sentence" and concluded that "Barry needs a hug" before dismissing his comments. Another NetApp blog slaps him around for trying to change the name of the technology from solid-state drives to enterprise flash drives. Burke writes under the heading "The Storage Anarchist," and a Sun blogger responded with a post called "Dancing with the Anarchist" that explains its position on flash drives. Another Sun employee blogged that "The Storage Anarchists article is one of the best ballet dancing events of this young century".

Independent bloggers also joined the fun, and there was rousing discussion that included some serious topics -- where should solid-state-disks sit in a tiered storage infrastructure, can SSDs simply be added to a storage arrays to replace a hard drive, where do new bottlenecks pop up when your SSD is the fastest part of your storage infrastructure, etc.

What started out as a slam at rivals turned into a useful discussion of technology, storage architectures, and the way various vendors are making use of solid state technology. As I said, it is all pretty entertaining -- and useful. I would strongly encourage IT managers and storage administrators to make time each week to do a quick review of who is saying what on the vendor blogs. You might learn some things about the systems you have deployed that you didn't know and should. You might even get some chuckles

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