Users: Many storage vendors fail to deliver on promises

As vendors pitch products such as storage management and virtualization software, end users say few technologies measure up to their increasingly complex environments. And with the current IT spending slowdown, some are concerned there will be even less crucial technology development in the near future.

Marvin Walling, an engineer at Lockheed Martin Information Systems in Orlando, Fla., said the job of managing several terabytes of data has become a complex configuration of storage boxes. What Walling said he wants now is "out of the box integration."

"We want seamless data storage," he said. "We want reliable backup and recovery and cost reductions. We want more for less."

Getting more for less has been a common theme at the Storage Networking World conference here. IT managers said that cost cutting has forced them to view projects from a total-cost-of-ownership and return-on-investment approach. Most are turning to software developers to help address those issues.

Alex Gurvich, an assistant vice president in the technology group at GE Equity Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said he's concerned that the IT spending slowdown will stall efforts by vendors to produce new technology to address end-user needs.

"You need interoperability and storage management simplicity." Walling said. "The growth of storage is 100 percent a year. The budgets are seeing single-digit growth or are flat, and you are being asked to do more with less."

Steve Duplessie, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based research firm Enterprise Storage Group Inc., said most storage vendors simply don't consider how their one or two products affect a large enterprise's overall IT infrastructure.

Kurt Bahrs, a disaster recovery specialist at Aetna Inc. in Hartford, Conn., said he wants a tool that can monitor his data end-to-end and do backup and recovery, whether it's on a global SAN or a local-area network.

"I want to get away from NT and midrange storage boxes," he said. "I want to put everything on a unified storage to save on my footprint space and cut down on recovery time."

Besides the need to find new solutions despite an ever-shrinking IT budget, Bahrs said another problem is that there are too many storage vendors with proprietary solutions that won't tie into his existing systems.

Several top technology vendor CEOs were critical of their own industry, questioning the production of new products at a break-neck pace without first determining the needs of IT managers.

"We hardly know anything about Fibre Channel, and yet we're lurching forward into IP storage, Infiniband and my favorite, virtualization," said Peter van Oppen, chairman and CEO of Redmond, Wash.-based Advanced Digital Information Corp. "The customer is in a chaotic, messy, sloppy environment."

StorageTek Corp. CEO Patrick Martin said confusion has been created because of a lack of standards and planning by the vendor community. "You as users don't leave it up to vendors to develop those standards," he told the audience.

A couple of things CIOs can be sure of, Martin said: "There's no one company you can assume will provide all of your solutions," and "technology and solutions that integrate islands of computing make things more complex."

Fibre Channel switch vendor Brocade Communications Co.'s CEO Greg Reyes had some of the most succinct advice for fellow vendors: Explain technology and its benefits in plain English, and "get beyond the technical jargon," he said.

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