Storage Game Shows

Like The Dating Game and other highbrow TV fare of yesteryear, the time may be right for the development of new game shows—focused on the storage industry itself.

At the risk of savaging the intellectual property of Chuck Barris, creator of the Dating Game, the Newlywed Game, the Gong Show, and other highbrow TV fare of yesteryear, we believe that the time may be right for the development of new game shows—focused on the storage industry itself.

While the potential audience for this kind of programming might be too small for prime time television, I wonder whether there may be a niche for such fare as part of the agenda for many technology trade shows. No one can debate that attendance, even at brand name tech events, has withered over the past couple of years. A new flock of game shows may be just the ticket to put proverbial butts in the seats.

Before you dismiss the idea of a storage game show as downright ridiculous, consider that the precedent already exists. How many shows have you attended that featured the same old tired analysts from IDC, Gartner, or any of the gaggle of “boutique” storage research firms, who took center stage to deliver their deadpan version of Burlesque? Like stand-up comedians, they would hail the latest thing—from Fibre Channel SANs to information lifecycle management to grid storage—explaining how each was an irreversible trend of the future that we would be well advised to deploy immediately in our data centers. Those of us who didn’t wait for the punch line have too often found ourselves to be the butt of the joke.

The beauty of a storage game show is that it would give us the opportunity to turn the tables on the vendors for a change. Here are a few ideas worth exploring for future storage conferences and expositions:

Storage Idol

Think American Idol but for storage technology start-ups. Take a handful of EMC wannabees and give them each five to ten minutes each to pitch their hypothetical wares before a panel of venture capitalists and an audience of storage consumers. The risk of an unflattering rejection would be more than offset by at least two very real benefits. First, the newbies could treat the experience as instant market research, letting them know whether there is actually any need for the technology they are proposing to develop or if they are simply going down another development rabbit hole that no one particularly cares about. Second, they might actually receive feedback that they could use to improve their product or its business case. The grand prize would be an all-expenses-paid trip to VC land to work out the arrangements for an investment.

Sounds far fetched, you say? Consider this: the CTO for a well-moneyed start-up told me not long ago that he received funding for his software idea by wearing a torn T-shirt to the VC meeting and looking more or less distracted and bizarre. Apparently, many venture guys expect oddball behavior from technology visionaries and are more inclined to fund ideas brought to them by guys with poor personal hygiene than manicures and Saville Row business suits. That explains a lot of storage technology out there today.

From the consumer perspective, such an event would give us the ability to inform both the VCs and the technologists about the real-world problems that exist in our storage infrastructure today. That way, we might head off some of the half-baked technologies that are appearing in the market and help hone the focus of the industry that has built up around storage.

The Data Game

Think Dating Game with a twist. A consumer sits on a stool on one side of a partition and three anonymous vendors perch atop stools on the other side of the partition. Through a series of questions, the consumer describes his or her storage problem and asks each vendor contestant how his or her technology could be harnessed to provide a solution. At the end, one vendor is selected, the consumer and vendor meet in the center stage, and the consumer gets a big price break on the technology in exchange for having the entire implementation process documented.

The results of the implementation, with all its setbacks and successes, will be exposed in a Webcast or white paper or other public forum so that all consumers can see whether the vendor is good as his (or her) word. The clear benefits: the consumer gets a problem solved (maybe), the vendor gets a customer (maybe), and we all get a reference model for consideration as we set out to solve similar challenges. Vendors who don’t get the nod get to play another round at a later date or receive a home version of the game that they can play with friends and family.

The $1.98 Storage Contest

The most monolithic storage vendors come on stage to put the best face on their most expensive wares. They do their best to explain to the audience how investing a boatload of money on their gear will save the consumer at least $1.98. Voting on the winner are a panel of four or five storage “analysts,” all of whom are paid enormous sums by the vendor-competitors for their paid endorsements on an on-going basis. We will watch them sweat as they have to choose between paying clients without upsetting or losing the business of the clients that are not selected as winners.

The benefit to the vendor-contestant is the free publicity given to the value case they have formulated for their overpriced goods. The analyst-evaluators get much-needed credibility after years of promulgating only mealy-mouthed comparative assessments of little or no use to consumers. And, of course, IT consumers get a laugh or two from watching vendors try to put a positive spin on their overbuilt iron, while analysts trip over themselves with diplomacy trying to preserve their lucrative vendor contracts.

SNIA Feud

Think Family Feud, but without the kissing. A team of SNIA execs competes with a team of storage managers from real-world companies to see who really understands the needs of the storage consumer. The moderator introduces a category (“things that are missing from current ILM solutions,” for example), then the teams take turns naming items. Their answers must match the top four or five responses from an audience poll. It will be a great way to separate marketecture from reality.

I hope to premiere this series of game shows in a few months at select storage conferences. Watch this space. jtoigo@intnet.net

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.