Storage Customers Get Advocacy Group

It's time for storage users to fight back against industry politics, according to analyst Jon Toigo.

Its time for storage users to fight back against industry politics, according to analyst Jon Toigo.

Toigo, author of the popular book "The Holy Grail of Data Storage Management" and two books on disaster recovery, next week will announce the Data Management Institute. The new group is solely for storage customer advocacy—vendors are barred from joining, he said.

Initially self-funded, "Its a membership-driven organization endeavoring to establish data management as its own discipline within the IT field," he said in an interview this week.

DMIs agenda includes lobbying vendors to allow transferable product licenses; publication of 500 case studies by September; the creation of a Web forum for sharing technical advice; vendor-neutral certifications; and head-to-head product reviews conducted by independent laboratories.

Many significant IT vendors disallow unauthorized product reviews, a trend thats been challenged for its First Amendment implications. "My business plan allocates 30 percent of its budget to doing legal defense work. I wholly expect it," Toigo said.

A catalyst for the new group, in Dunedin, Fla., is to balance the marketing of the vendor-oriented Storage Networking Industry Association, Toigo said.

SNIA officials were not available to comment, but recently announced their own customer-focused plans, including a new $1,000 annual membership level for storage users; a level for individuals that will cost $50-$100 a year; and a conformance-testing program for vendors to test their Common Information Model applications. But the results, including how many times it takes to pass, are up to the vendors to publish or not, SNIA officials said.

CIMs potential to create a more level playing field has the consequence of vendors making product differentiation a higher priority than compatibility, Toigo said.

"Interoperability, its really hard, trying to determine what works with what over whom. Youre spending millions of dollars and you cant make a mistake," said Jim Gursha, owner of systems integrator High Performance Systems Solutions Inc., and chair of the storage special interest group within Encompass, the worldwide Hewlett Packard Co. users group. Third-party product reviews are long overdue in the storage industry, he said. For Encompass own Web forums, "its very hard to get people to participate," he said.

Despite the existence of many such storage-industry Internet newsgroups, e-mail lists, and regional and vendor-specific user groups, Toigo said, "What most consumers dont understand is, theyve got the vendors over a barrel right now. They can pretty much get anything they want." ´

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