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Opinion: The Real SMI-S Agenda

Someone just sent me a copy of a new "white paper" entitled "Customer Reaction to SMI-S." With due respect to the paper's author, I have to say that it left me a little perturbed. I worry that it might strike storage technology consumers the same way--a concern only because I rather like the author's storage company, which not too long ago was just a little start-up with big ideas.

The first reason I took exception to the piece is that it gave the impression that the Storage Networking Industry Association's Storage Management Initiative-Specification (SMI-S) was a sort of inevitable thing: a storage management panacea that every vendor and consumer would embrace going forward. I found myself wondering why a writer from a newbie storage vendor would suddenly be carrying the mantle for SNIA, an organization hardly known for its warm embrace of start-ups according to many of the innovators I've had the pleasure to interview over the years.

A quick visit to the author's web site gave me a clue. Last November, at the Fall Storage Networking World show, the author's company had announced its products' SMI-S interoperability. That seemed to be at least a partial explanation. You don't need to be Sun Tzu or Machiavelli to realize that, in order to get in good with the SNIA ruling clique, you at least need to talk the talk of SMI-S--and keep your membership dues up to date, of course.

What also struck me about the paper was the bell curve used to describe SMI-S adoption by the user community. It seemed that, in addition to adopting the rhetoric of SNIA about SMI-S, the author was also borrowing a page from Gartner's book.

Industry research and analysis firms are fond of presenting their paying clientele with evolutionary curves that show how the client's technology is moving from early adopter to midstream to late adopter phases. It's comfort food, but without any substantive nutritional value, and it keeps the client happy. In essence, the evolutionary curve says that the client's technology is going places, that its marketing efforts are succeeding in overcoming the fear, uncertainty and doubt among conservative consumers, and, best of all, that the technology will soon go mainstream, yielding big profits for its creator.

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