Resolutions for 2004: My Suggestions for Storage Vendors

Our storage columnist offers vendors four simple goals for the year ahead.

They say the economy is coming back to life and many storage vendors are reporting good earnings in the final quarter of 2003 (though nothing on par with the halcyon years of the late 1990s). In honor of the New Year and the new outlook, I would like to propose a few resolutions of my own to the industry.

Let me start with one of my personal goals every New Year's Eve. It has some real applicability to storage.

1. Complete what you start.

For example, the Common Information Model is a good idea, but despite the efforts of a few remaining true believers at SNIA (such as Mark Carlson and John Tyrell), CIM remains elusive. It appears that the lack of a threat of a single dominant vendor has taken some of the wind out of the sails of CIM and lost it some backers. The lack of momentum may also reflect hardware vendors lording it over the software vendors and stifling development of a common management scheme that threatens to commoditize their offerings further.

Whatever the cause, CIM needs fixing and 2004 is when it can happen—if everyone will just agree to work the problem together. Just renaming it the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) doesn’t do anything. It’s just another bad acronym from an organization (SNIA) that seems to have raised bad acronyms to a fine art. I am surprised that they haven’t developed a Storage Networking Industry Forum (SNIF) around the effort … or have they? Forget about the branding and resolve to execute the assignment.

2. Try to be more honest.

Simple on its face, but difficult to implement, this resolution is particularly germane to storage.

Let’s face it, vendors, your bad karma levels are at an all-time high after the myriad of prevaricating press releases you issued following the University of New Hampshire FC SAN plugfest and SNW Interoperability Lab demos in 2003. You should feel shame for the literally hundreds of publicity messages you issued proclaiming “a new era in SAN interoperability.” My interviews with lab workers revealed a truth that was the polar opposite of your press release verbiage: heterogeneous fabrics were unstable in the extreme and interoperability issues were the worst anyone had ever seen in the past five years.

Let’s do a sanity check and offer some straight talk on SANs in 2004. Your customers would appreciate it.

3. Lose some weight.

My perennial problem is also a problem with the industry. Truth is that all of your technology innovations are not the greatest thing to happen since sliced bread. They are not disruptive innovations. They are what they are: technology fixes to technology problems for the most part.

Virtualization doesn’t make a company better, it just (in the best of all possible implementations) masks complexity from end users and apps. It is a technology to fix a technology problem, a tool that, when judiciously applied, can give storage architects some options for solving problems. It isn’t a panacea that solves all business ills.

The storage utility doesn’t exist in the real world, and Information Lifecycle Management is similarly a visionary approach to management. Lofty statements about ILM are not going to solve underlying problems of platform non-interoperability, connection instability, or high cost of ownership in storage. And let’s be honest here, too. What passes for ILM in current product technology isn’t really ILM anyway—it's Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) or simple data migration by another name.

How about casting off the weight of developing fictitious marketecture for a bit and focusing your attention on figuring out ways to solve real customer problems? Dropping a few pounds might just make you leaner and more energized to deliver solutions with real value.

4. Resolve to remember the past.

As a smart guy once said, those who forget past mistakes repeat them.

This resolution applies to consumers as well as vendors. If the economists are right and we can all start singing “Happy Days are Here Again,” let’s all try to keep in mind that the reason our storage is costing us so much is because we purchased components over the past decade with no attention paid to managing them. Times were good, bank accounts were flush, and we “solved” capacity problems by throwing more storage at them rather than managing what we had.

Don’t forget the hard lessons learned over the past couple of years when economic times got hard and we were told to do more with less. Make management a top criterion in the selection of all storage products going forward.

About the Author

Jon William Toigo is chairman of The Data Management Institute, the CEO of data management consulting and research firm Toigo Partners International, as well as a contributing editor to Enterprise Systems and its Storage Strategies columnist. Mr. Toigo is the author of 14 books, including Disaster Recovery Planning, 3rd Edition, and The Holy Grail of Network Storage Management, both from Prentice Hall.