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by Administrator on February 23, 2007

In a previous post, I alluded to a new organization being formed in the hopes of imposing some sort of order in the storage industry. 

Over the past few weeks, I have been working pretty hard to define the outlines of such an entity and realized that I haven’t solicited input from the folks who really matter — you!  If this is to be a partnership between users, vendors and service providers with all operations conducted in the sunshine, it occurs to me that everyone should be invited to give input to the idea at its inception.

So here is a draft FAQ for you to review and let me know what you think.  I have redacted the working name for the organization for now — when we launch, you will have the bragging rights at having been involved while it was still a smile on mommy’s face that daddy didn’t understand.

What is this new organization?

[NAME REDACTED] is a new association for those who are involved with data storage and management from several important perspectives. The organization combines Storage Managers, Architects, Resellers and Technologists.

  • Membership includes, first and foremost, consumers of storage technology products and services who are interested in meeting business process and application requirements with best of breed storage solutions at a reasonable cost.
  • Membership also includes distributors, resellers, integrators, consultants, trainers, maintenance service providers and storage service providers who collectively adapt and package the products of the storage vendor industry and original equipment manufacturers into customized solutions that address consumer requirements, then support them over time.
  • Finally, membership includes equipment manufacturers and software companies offering products and components that provide the elements of storage solutions.

Working together in a democratic organization, chaired by a consumer, and conducting its business in full view of the membership and the media, this organization can finally achieve what industry associations and technical groups alone cannot: a business-savvy, balanced, and mutually beneficial vendor-consumer relationship. With data storage products and services commanding a significant percentage

What are the goals of this organization?

The goals of the organization are

1. To create a “storage democracy” – a community of interests in which all members work together to define requirements, to vet reference model solutions, and to develop independent technology that will facilitate the integration of hardware and software elements into solutions to business problems.

2. To create processes for monitoring the behavior of storage vendors and service providers and to validate their marketing claims about product functionality and service delivery.

  • Vendor/Service Provider membership requires contractual agreement to a Code of Ethics, which has been modeled after the Code of Ethics of ASCDI. The Code requires members to conduct business with honesty and integrity and to conform to a process for adjudicating reported violations of the Code in a fair and open manner.
  • Members found to have violated the Code will be subjected to an ethics review, and potentially a set of disciplinary actions ranging from warnings to expulsion from the organization. Detailed records will be maintained of reported violations, investigatory efforts, and decisions of the Ethics Committee. These will be placed in a database that can be accessed by consumers when selecting vendors or service providers to assist them in building storage infrastructure.  Think “Better Business Bureau” for storage.
  • Conversely, kudos for good work conducted by vendors and service providers, as reported by satisfied consumers, will also be recorded for reference by other prospective consumers.

It is hoped that this repository will provide a tool for consumers, encouraging them to use vendors and service providers who solve problems effectively, and discouraging them from using vendors and service providers who conduct business in an unethical manner.

3. The organization will develop training programs to educate consumers about practical issues and best practices in storage infrastructure design and management. Included will be training and templates for specifying storage requirements and for evaluating vendor proposals and marketing materials.

4. On a vertical industry and/or application-specific basis, generic storage requirements will be collected and maintained in a database that will, in turn, be linked to a set of “reference profile solutions” — combinations of hardware and software that have been pre-tested to confirm and validate their fit with a specified requirements set. In turn, these reference profiles will be linked to a database of vendors and service providers who have asserted their qualifications to deploy the reference profile solutions. Eventually, this database will be cross referenced to a database of consumer reports on the performance of solutions in place and the performance of vendors supplying products or services. Through these efforts, the new organization will encourage the purpose-building of storage infrastructure and promote the development of solutions that deliver on their value proposition.

5. The organization will take an active role in monitoring new technologies and fostering innovation. Technology is not standing still: server, network and storage technologies are in a constant state of change and new ideas are always entering the market. The organization’s founders believe that the challenge posed by newcomers to incumbent technologies must be embraced in order to stimulate progress and to solve new problems. Thus, innovative start-ups who join the new body will be provided a forum where their new products can be reviewed by peers in the vendor community and by consumers who may eventually use the products. The organization will facilitate Beta Testing initiatives to serve the common interest of the members.

6. The organization will become the new home of the StorageRevolution.com initiative, intended to build open source or free-to-use middleware for “gluing together” business applications, software-provided storage management services, software-provided data protection services, and storage hardware. This initiative is entirely vendor neutral and will seek to provide consumers and integrators with the ability to select appropriate software and hardware components to build infrastructure as fits their needs. While some consumers and integrators may prefer to solve storage needs with monolithic, “one-stop-shop” products – irregardless of the lock-ins and economic foibles of such a strategy – the organization seeks to provide an alternative approach to building storage that leverages the falling cost of storage media and the innovative intellectual property of storage software developers.

7. The new organization will actively pursue the adoption of a storage consumer’s bill of rights and will issue position papers and membership survey data covering a broad range of storage consumer concerns. The organization will assume responsibility for producing an annual report in conjunction with its co-founder, The Data Management Institute, entitled “A Day in the Life of the Data Manager.”

8. The organization will provide educational forums, seminars and conferences on topics of interest to all storage practitioners and will co-sponsor an annual Disaster Recovery and Data Protection Summit with the Data Management Institute.

9. The organization will maintain an on-line portal providing a virtual community for its members that can be referenced to obtain the latest information about technology, best practices, consumer success stories, problem reports, and the work of the organization and its committees. In most cases, committee meetings take the form of webcasts on the community site, enabling all members to participate in the work of the organization.

10. The organization will be supported entirely by member dues and members will have a vote in the initiatives of the organization.

What is the legal status of this organization and what is the cost to join?

The new organization will be incorporated as a non-profit association in the State of Delaware.

  • Business operations of the organization will be managed by a qualified association management company.
  • Testing and validation services will be contracted to a qualified storage testing laboratory.
  • Training programs, newsletters, and other research projects will be developed on a project basis by qualified contractors.

Currently, proposed dues for membership in this organization are:

  • $4000 per year for storage hardware manufacturers and software developers
  • $1200 per year for storage service providers (including distributors, resellers, integrators, managed service providers, trainers and consultancies)
  • $120 per year for business and IT practitioners (consumers)

What’s in it for consumers?

This new organization is, first and foremost, a consumer-focused organization. Our goals and objectives seek to establish a meaningful dialog between storage consumers and vendors/service providers that will encourage the development of products and services that meet consumer requirements effectively and affordably.

Simply put, there are equal parts architecture and “marketecture” in the storage industry today. Just sifting through vendor marketing materials to find technology that fits business requirements is a daunting task. Managing the resulting architecture remains a “black art.” This new organization seeks to simplify this process.

Moreover, storage consumers in small to medium sized businesses can gain substantial benefits from organization membership that were once reserved only to large enterprises with deep pockets and the bargaining leverage that this often embues. Through membership, even IT practitioners in small organizations can influence the fit and the price of technologies they need to solve their data management problems.

What’s in it for service providers?

The new organization will provide two things that distributors, resellers, integrators, consultants and other service providers seek most:

  • a vehicle for connecting service providers with the latest technology and the manufacturers and software developers who create it. This is expected to facilitate the creation of channel partnerships with providers of reliable wares.
  • the means for service providers to address prospective customers in a cost-efficient manner. An RFI/RFP engine will be created that enables consumers to shop for local service providers.

The organization will also enable service providers to stay on top of the latest trends, from both a supply and demand perspective. Service providers can obtain training for their staff and leverage reference profiles developed and validated by the new organization’s Testing to streamline solution-building for their present and prospective customers.

The organization also helps service providers articulate the kinds of information that they need from consumers in order to build better solutions that meet customer business needs.

What’s in it for equipment manufacturers and software developers?

The new organization offers much greater value to hardware and software OEMs than do memberships in traditional industry trade associations.

Some OEMs will benefit from the opportunity to develop channel partnerships via an organizational forum especially designed to facilitate channel program development. The organization can provide a convenient and inexpensive platform for discussing product catalogs and channel pricing programs.

OEMs can also use the organization to explain the value of their products to consumers, to vet their product pitches with those who count. Friendly debates between vendors can provide a mechanism for differentiating alternative solutions. Organization-based Beta Testing and Validation Testing can better inform product development (leading to better products that meet consumer needs) and generate immediate credibility for product marketing.

Membership will also provide an important statement about the OEM’s commitment to consumers. Organization branding asserts a commitment to good business practices and conformance with values such as honesty and integrity that are core to the Organization’s Code of Ethics. Vendors that do not join the organization do not necessarily embrace these practices or values. This will factor into the choices made by consumers in their storage purchases.

So, that’s the draft FAQ to date.  What do you think?  If we build it, would you come?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

joseph martins February 23, 2007 at 8:40 pm

I question the need for vendor and service provider membership fees. Besides the obvious reason, why are they necessary?

One problem we face, John, is consumer perception. Consumers tend to distrust all vendors based on the actions of some. Any monetary contribution is perceived as a pay-off for favorable press and influence. Vendor membership fees would certainly provide substantial operating income, but is it worth coloring consumer perception from the outset?

Vendors should still be encouraged to make personnel/equipment contributions and they’re welcome to pay for individual employee memberships.

I would model the organization after another successful, mature organization such as ARMA – 61 years, more than 11,000 members and dozens of chapters worldwide – and unlike SNIA, it’s doing something right. It offers only individual memberships including discounted student and retiree memberships. It publishes well-written periodicals, hosts frequent chapter events and has considerable industry influence.

In fact, I’m in the process of speaking with ARMA about extending its reach into the storage industry. I believe it would help to bring the two communities (information management and storage) closer together. After all, storage is a subest of information management.

Disclaimer: I’m a member of both SNIA and ARMA.

Chuck Cortright February 24, 2007 at 11:32 am

Sounds like an excellent and timely idea:

1. The value of a SNIA-like organization to anyone but vendors is pretty small.

2. This “Better Business Bureau” approach will ring true with lots of end users, in my opinion.

3. Nothing but good can come from being closer to the customer.

Like I said – seems like an excellent and timely idea/concept.

Regards,

Chuck

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