And The Winner Is...

In a market with few innovations, we find some noteworthy achievements among storage vendors and their promoters.

The Spring storage conference and trade show season is upon us and, while there are few new or original products in the market, this has not dissuaded vendors and media outlets from handing out best-of-show awards at venue after venue. As one who finds this practice specious and more than a little self serving, since it is usually based less on a review of the product’s performance than on the quality of its marketing materials (and the size of its advertising budget), I've decided to hand out a different kind of kudos.

IBM Tivoli and Computer Associates share our top award this year for “truthful product management.” At various times, we have had the opportunity to drill down into the products of each company in this column (and elsewhere) and have been surprised when product managers offered frank and honest answers to our questions—answers that often flew in the face of their own marketing nonsense.

At IBM Tivoli, one manager as much as admitted that its “Regulatory Compliance Solution” was just so much marketecture. Nobody actually needed to buy some IBM storage boxes and Tivoli HSM software to bring their operations into compliance with any regulations; nothing in the regs required any changes at all to storage infrastructure. Said the manager, the real value of putting some sort of structured data management capability into place was increased storage utilization efficiency, not regulatory compliance—despite the efforts of the industry to fan the flames of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) as a vehicle to promote their “compliance solutions.” We couldn’t agree more. The product manager’s honesty was refreshing.

CA’s response to a recent questionnaire sent out to all of the Information Lifecycle Management product vendors was also a credit to that organization. The terse response from CA posited simply, “We do not believe that either ILM technology or CA’s strategy in the ILM space are sufficiently mature to warrant much response at this point.” And we quite agree.

In the words of one of our favorite CA’ers (Marco Coulter) during an informal chat at Storage Networking World, “ILM is like a new Ferrari. A lot of people may be interested in taking a test drive, but less than one percent is actually going to buy it right now. Most CIOs just want to be prepared for the next time they are on the golf course with a peer from another company who asks whether they have seen the new Ferrari. They will be able to say that they have already taken a test drive, if only to show that they are in step with the latest trends.” Truer words were never spoken and we are liking CA more and more these days.

Another award we see fit to bestow right now goes to Judy Smith and company at JPR Communications, for providing knowledgeable representation on behalf their many storage clients. Press relations droids are typically the bane of journalists. We have run out of fingers to count the number of times we call an agency to find a suitable person at a client vendor’s company to interview about a product, or just to get correct spellings, job titles, or product names for the vendor’s wares, only to confront someone who doesn’t even seem to know that the vendor is a client of the firm!

Add to that the number of idiots who call us out of the blue to offer their client, who manufactures game controllers or some other irrelevant technology for an article we are writing on storage management. “Can’t you find a way to work in my client’s joystick into your piece?” asks the rep, adding with a wink that they will even send us a joystick for our gaming amusement in exchange for some ink! Bribery gets you nowhere with us.

By contrast, it is a pleasure to work with JPR. Their reps work to become knowledgeable about their clients and their products, and about the competitive marketplace in which the client operates, and can often answer our questions on the first ring. Moreover, their insights are typically more critical, commonsensical, and probing than anything you get from so-called independent analysts. They are appropriately awarded the “Unsung Heroes of Storage Journalism Award" for 2004.

Finally, we want to give special recognition to one vendor who recently crossed our radar with a truly unique idea, which we will explore in greater detail in a future column. The company is PSS Systems ( They have latched onto an existing model—that of anti-virus software—to push out data management policies to mobile and desktop clients that are the true Achilles Heel of real regulatory compliance. Deploy their solution for $300 per client and you have the ability to get all your road warriors participating in a data management scheme that can inoculate you against a harsh experience with the SEC or other agency in the event of an investigation.

PSS Systems has done a great job of bolting a couple of familiar things together to make a third thing—and to address in a business savvy manner one of the most knotty issues today. Their solution blows the socks off of all those overpriced document management systems that vendors are trying to shove down our throats in the name of regulatory compliance.

More on PSS Systems shortly. In the meantime, send me e-mail if you would like to propose additional vendor awards:

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.