Opinion: Spell it out for me

What should next year bring us in regard to storage? A more favorable market and a more robust economy would answer everybody's prayers, but unfortunately, that's beyond our control. So, we can only keep our hopes high and our fingers crossed.

Last year remarkably exemplified how robust the storage industry is: We saw much technological innovation and many new products challenge the odds. Still, there is room for improvement.

Storage innovation generates more complex and sophisticated offerings, and a competitive arena forces everybody to up the volume of their sales pitches. An unpleasant consequence is that many press releases and marketing brochures make legal documents seem like a third grader's textbook. Our suggestion: Simplify the language. Vendors, please provide more factual information, and include as many definitions and as much language used by independent bodies, such as the Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) or the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), as possible. Customers won't buy what they can't understand.

Speaking of clarifications, Hewlett-Packard Co. should clarify its storage strategy. A line of products labeled "HP StorageWorks" creates confusion for pre-merger Compaq customers. So does the announcement of ENSA (Enterprise Network Storage Architecture) Extended, HP's integrated storage vision, but we (and many customers, for sure) would like to better understand how combined HP and Compaq storage solutions will evolve. So naturally, an HP storage road map is on our gift list.

Also, please publish more independently verified benchmark results. We understand that real life has many more variables than what anybody can pack in a protected lab environment. Nevertheless, hard numbers to back up storage system selection are invaluable for many companies.

We should all be surprised and pleased by the progress of the IETF and standards (WEBM/CIM) for storage management. However as annoying people often say, actions speak louder than words: We need to see CIM (common information model) implementation, and we need to see it done consistently. Standards are great, but if implementations vary so greatly, customers will still suffer.

Oh, wait -- that's the industry's dirty little secret: Everyone touts standards and interoperability, but they don't come through on their talk (we're not fooled). Again we ask, why would a system vendor give up profits and make its products indistinguishable from its nearest competitor's? That would just be bad business.

Finally, we look forward to seeing what kind of impact Cisco will have on our little ol' storage industry -- and learning if some of these hardware vendors touting software can actually convert themselves to software companies.

We doubt it.

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