ZL Technologies Inc. sent out a notice today that its lawsuit against analyst firm Gartner has been dismissed.
In a statement, CEO Kon Leong said:
ZL believes that Gartner’s overwhelming influence on large corporations’ purchasing decisions, and its inaccurate ratings, including its bias in favor of large vendors, combine to pose major competitive hurdles that hurt smaller innovative vendors across all technology sectors. The harm falls not only on new and innovative companies like ZL, but on the enterprise customers who receive faulty purchasing advice, and as a result overspend on inferior technology.
While we are disappointed that the court has dismissed our lawsuit as filed, we are pleased that it has given us leave to amend our complaint, over Gartner opposition. We believe the market should take note that the defense on which Gartner prevailed was its argument that its reports contain “pure opinions,” namely, opinions which are not based on objective facts. In ZL’s view, that is directly contrary to the statements Gartner makes to its customers when selling its allegedly sound research. ZL intends to amend its complaint and refile within 30 days.
Whatever happens from here legally speaking, the lawsuit itself raises interesting points about analysts, purchasing decisions and ethics. Whether Gartner is protected by the First Amendment as speech or not won’t protect it from criticism such as StorageMojo blogger Robin Harris’s recent post, “Gartner’s Magic Hydrant.”
The Magic Quadrant has the analytical rigor of a beauty contest. Implicit and explicit assumptions about customers, markets, technologies, use cases and suppliers obscures more than it reveals. The MQ seeks to rank vendors not only by what their products do, but by what Gartner presumes an enterprise customer should want. They presume too much.
Customers aren’t idiots; they can see that a company isn’t very big. What they don’t know is how well their products work.
Gartner needs to start earning that $1.3 billion, not just collecting it. If the FTC can require lowly bloggers to report vendor freebies and payments, perhaps the day isn’t far off when mighty IT consulting shops will have to do likewise. Kudos to ZLT for noting the emperor’s scanty attire.
Few in the blogosphere or storage Twitterland have stepped forward to vigorously defend the Magic Quadrant, while those who base buying decisions on the Magic Quadrant also come in for criticism.
A sampling of that debate from Harris’s blog–
From a commenter calling himself “Thomas”
Between paying Gartner to think for them and vendors to do the infrastructure, it’s no wonder business execs want to adopt technologies that get rid of no-content vendor pass-throughs that walk the halls calling themselves “IT staff.” Filling out purchase orders and plugging in ethernet cables do not provide competitive advantages and if you cant get a competitive advantage from your IT, then why not outsource it?
From a commenter with the handle “jh”
Gartner is a tool to be used by knowledgeable professionals to help them understand the market, narrow focus and choose product. Nobody buys right off a list. Although you and others may not like the 2 x 2 chart, it provides a good shorthand of the overall market in ways that are easier to talk about than a stack of thousands of pages of product information. If a IT pro or a CIO is just looking for a defensible position, they could spend a lot more money getting a lot less value by hiring some of the consulting organizations I have dealt with…
When I informally polled my Twitter followers about this when the lawsuit was first announced, I also got some varying replies.
Navel-gazing like this about the role of industry analysts in the storage business has popped up before, but to little noticeable effect on how anybody — vendors, users, and analysts — seem to operate. I’m not sure this time will be any different, but the lawsuit may have raised the profile of the debate a bit.
There’s been some head-scratching around the storage industry after EMC CEO Joe Tucci and CFO David Goulden said on EMC’s earnings call last week that EMC would discontinue its reseller relationship with Dell. The execs said Dell and EMC would continue to focus on their OEM relationship, but didn’t go into detail about what it all really means.
The subject came up again today at the 451 Client Conference in Boston, where an EMC employee who requested anonymity clarified: OEM means anything Dell sells under the Dell brand. That means Clariion and some Celerra, for which Dell handles some of the manufacturing. The reseller relationship was based on opportunities turned up by Dell that were referred to EMC — this involves Clariion and Celerra, but also Symmetrix in some cases.
On the earnings call, Goulden said Dell Clariion revenues decreased 15% sequentially, though overall Clariion revenues were up 1%. Dell still accounted for 25% of overall Clariion revenues, and within that, 15% was attributable to the OEM business.
So, the first thing this change in relationship means is the potential loss of about 10% of EMC’s Clariion revenues, although those customers may still buy Clariions through EMC or its other channel partners. Tucci said EMC and Dell would try to “pick up the slack” with OEM sales as the reseller relationship is de-emphasized.
It also means, ostensibly, that Dell will no longer be referring Symmetrix sales when suitable opportunities arise.
Dell’s margins are higher and it makes more money from the OEM deals — where it also handles support -– than from the reseller deals. But by giving up Symmetrix reseller deals, will Dell leave an open door for its customers to go to Hewlett-Packard or IBM? Or will Dell find another partner? If so, who? And just how close would that partnership be?
Dell’s acquisition of iSCSI vendor EqualLogic – which makes systems that sometimes compete with Clariion – worked out well, and Michael Dell said in June he was looking to acquire companies. 3PAR, which makes disk arrays that compete with Symmetrix, was mentioned by storage industry watchers as a potential acquisition target for Dell, although the $3.9 billion buy of Perot Systems in September put the kibosh on most of that speculation. 3PAR’s market cap is currently at a little over half a billion, so it wouldn’t be quite as much to swallow as Perot.
In light of all this, what should we make of Dell’s surprisingly aggressive response to EMC’s announcement of a new joint venture with Cisco and VMware this week? What about the fact that Dell’s Clariion sales declined though EMC’s grew? Is the on-again/off-again Dell/EMC coziness back off again?
EMC and Cisco today officially confirmed their long-awaited private cloud venture, called Acadia.
In a joint press release, the vendors referred to Acadia as “a joint venture focused on accelerating customer build-outs of private cloud infrastructures through an end-to-end enablement of service providers and large enterprise customers.” Cisco and EMC are Acadia’s lead investors, with VMware and Intel involved as limited partners. Acadia will begin customer operations in the first quarter of next year, the vendors say.
Acadia is an offshoot of an alliance between EMC, Cisco and VMware called the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE), also officially disclosed today after months of speculation. The vendors today also today launched product bundles called Vblock Infrastructure Packages.
Vblock packages include Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS), Nexus 1000v and MDS Fibre Channel switches, EMC Symmetrix V-Max or Clariion storage systems and VMware vSphere software. Vblock 1 is a midsized configuration for 800 to 3,000 virtual machines, and Vblock 2 is a high-end configuration that scales from 3,000 to 6,000 virtual machines. Vblock 0 is an entry level configuration supporting 300 to 800 virtual machines.
The vendors describe Vblock Infrastructure Packages as a “better approach to streamlining and optimizing IT strategies around private clouds.”
The VCE alliance also includes joint sales, support and professional services teams. Professional services include Cloud-based Business Advisory Service, Private Cloud Strategic Impact Advisory Service, Private Cloud Architecture Impact Advisory Service, Virtual Desktop Advisory Service, Cloud Computing Strategy Service, and Vblock Design and Implementation Service.
During a webcast to discuss Acadia and VCE today, CEOs Joe Tucci of EMC and John Chamber said the joint venture would consist of about 130 employees but they have yet to hire its CEO.
Rumors began swirling around the time of VMWorld in September that EMC and Cisco would be creating a joint venture to sell infrastructure to support VMware. Last week, two stories appeared on the news wires indicating an announcement may be imminent.
A story from the Dow Jones Newswire that appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s website said the partners are set to launch the venture this week with a product dubbed V-Block. According to this report, the new joint venture will have its own CEO.
Meanwhile, according to a Reuters report that also appeared Friday,
One part of the partnership calls for the two companies to form a joint venture that will sell vBlock as a hosted service. Customers can pay for that service based on the amount of computing power and storage that they need, accessing it via the Internet.
That joint venture will assemble computer systems for customers, integrating all necessary hardware and software to make the systems work.
According to reports and previous rumors, the joint venture would involve Cisco’s Unified Computing System and EMC storage. VMware, Cisco and EMC have had a longstanding alliance, dubbed VCE. What would make this different is that it would be a separate company with its own sales force, meaning the companies wouldn’t have to pay multiple commissions to multiple sales people for the same sale. It’s unclear what this joint venture would mean for customers that the existing partnership doesn’t offer today outside of one throat to choke for support.
FalconStor Software is preparing its cloud strategy around a new file system it developed in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Executives on the vendor’s earnings call Wednesday evening described HyperFS as a storage virtualization/SAN-based clustered file system that will be used to scale the storage layer of FalconStor’s cloud architecture. FalconStor CEO ReiJane Huai said HyperFS will be ready to launch next year.
FalconStor executives said they have signed an OEM deal with a large rich media content provider to sell a system built on HyperFS.
“That’s the opening shot,” VP of business development Bernie Wu added. “We are definitely going to be expanding our business with that file system. It’s massively scalable, good for cloud computing.”
Two startups are taking a software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach to reporting on storage assets.
Storage Fusion Ltd, a UK company spun off by a private investment firm last year, claims to be reporting on storage environments of up to 60 PB, and signed a licensing agreement with GlassHouse Technologies last fall. According to managing director Graham Wood, the 15-person company is currently working with about 50 active customers, all with more than 50 TB, not counting “one-off” analytics done with some partners. The company was not able to provide an end user for an interview.
Storage Fusion’s product, Storage Resource Analysis (SRA), consists of a series of scripts which customers download and execute to collect data on EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, or NetApp arrays in their environment. The data generated by the scripts are then sent back to Storage Fusion’s data center, where Storage Fusion performs the analysis and provides results to the customer via the Web. According to Wood, if users get their data uploaded before 3 p.m., the analysis will be available the same day.
The company’s Web portal provides analysis according to gegraphical parameters, or the total resources, allocation and utilization at each data center location; a consumer view, which shows the hosts connected to the storage; a provider view, which normalizes the view of resources across heterogeneous storage providers into one report on the total storage environment; an environmental view, which provides energy consumption statistics according to published power and cooling specs from vendors; and an optional add-on business view, which translates storage capacity data into business-relevant statistics like dollars and cents. The reporting tool also looks for “exceptions” and provides error warnings and information on “orphan” reclaimable storage. The tool can decompose virtualization layers and supports thin provisioned arrays under its tiering tab.
Some customers, particularly large ones, might be wary of a third party peeking into their environment or sending data about their environment out of their data center. But Storage Fusion sales and operations director Peter White said “from a security perspective, our scripts are completely open — we hid nothing, and prior to running them, the user can look at them and see they’re just service log commands, the kind of command line utilities they execute all day.” The Web portal is also accessed via an SSL connection.
On the other side of the pond, and the other side of the customer-size spectrum, is Waltham, Mass.-based Aprigo, whose Ninja product has gotten several hundred free-version downloads since August. This first free version of the product collects file metadata regardless of hardware vendor on common file attributes such as name, type, size, and date modified. Aprigo compliles those attributes in a single view, and presnets them along with a cost calculator to show the dollar value of storing information on a yearly basis.
“It can be used for archiving or tiered storage business justification,” Aprigo CEO Gill Zimmerman said. Customers can also store up to 500 GB or 5 previous historical scans for trending reports. Aprigo is also working to put together a “community intelligence” report where users can compare themselves anonymously against other Aprigo customers.
Aprigo has a midmarket focus and doens’t use the term SRM because it’s reporting on file data rather than physical devices, according to Zimmerman. It’s working on a collector for other SaaS-based file systems like Google Docs. The company plans a Nov. 15 release that will also report on access control lists for file systems.
While some analysts have said the SRM space, which has seen its share of ups and downs, won’t mature until services and help for customers interpreting analytics results are more widely available, the SaaS or services-delivery model of SRM tools is not a new idea — Aptare has sold its backup and storage reporting tools to service providers for years; similarly, IBM’s Storage Enterprise Research Planner (SERP) storage resource management tools are deployed through IBM Global Services. CommVault began offering a SaaS-based backup reporting service in 2008; Dell has pledged a SaaS approach to services; and Continuity Software also offers a SaaS option for its disaster recovery change management tool.
The encryption technology from defunct Neoscale is alive and well, and – after winding its way about Europe – shipping in a key management appliance that Hitachi Data Systems has started reselling.
A few years back, Neoscale, Decru (now part of NetApp) and a few others were part of what was seen as an emerging market for tape encryption devices. The market never took off, and U.K. enterprise security vendor nCipher bought Neoscale’s assets for $1.9 million in late 2007. Thales Group, a French-based company, then acquired nCipher for $100 million in July 2008.
Thales still sells CryptoStor tape encryption devices that Neoscale developed, and brought more Neoscale IP to market in Thales Encryption Manager for Storage (TEMS). Thales said this week that Brocade has qualified TEMS for it s Encryption Switch and the FS8-18 Encryption Blade that fits into Brocade’s DCX director switch.
Thales also secured a reseller deal with HDS to sell TEMS with Brocade switches. Thales is looking for similar deals with other storage vendors as it tries to become a player in the storage security game. TEMS handles encryption keys for devices from multiple vendors.
“We are attractive to Hitachi because we are security only, and not a storage and security company,” Thales director of product marketing Kevin Bocek said.
In other words, Thales is different than its rival RSA Security, which is owned by EMC.
“We’re not affiliated with a storage vendor,” Bocek said. “We’re neutral.”
Thales is part of the Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) alliance that is developing an industry standard, which Bocek expects to become ratified next year. Once that happens, he says, it will help vendors bring encryption products to market faster.
“Within a year or two, many more encryption devices will be brought into storage systems,” he said, sounding an optimistic tone for a market that hasn’t yet amounted to much.
Quantum execs are using their results from last quarter as evidence that the vendor can survive – and perhaps thrive – without EMC as a data deduplication partner.
Quantum reported a strong increase in disk and data deduplication revenue last quarter, the first since EMC’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Quantum’s dedupe rival Data Domain.
Quantum’s $28.2 million in disk and software revenue represented a 47% increase from the previous quarter and 36% from last year. That revenue includes Quantum’s StorNext clustered file system, but executives on the company’s earnings call Tuesday night said VTLs with dedupe made up a majority of the $28.2 million. They pointed to a “significant” increase in Quantum DXi disk sales, a “modest” increase in StorNext sales and slight decline in license revenue from EMC.
Quantum also cited three customer deals of more than $1 million each for its DXi7500 in the quarter. The increased disk sales helped Quantum beat Wall Street expectations with $175 million in revenue – up 9% from the previous quarter while down 19% from last year. Quantum’s $11 million profit was its second straight quarter in the black after a string of losses.
The numbers show Quantum still has a long way to go – EMC reported Data Domain alone brought in $105 million last quarter. But CEO Rick Belluzzo said Quantum gained momentum, and he hopes to take advantage of “disruption” caused by EMC-Data Domain by scoring new OEM deals and adding channel partners to transform the company.
“This company has historically been mostly about tape,” Belluzzo told SearchDataBackup after the earnings report. “Now I suspect people are watching the deduplication segment more closely.”
Belluzzo said the split with EMC prompted Quantum to chase large enterprise deals rather than rely on EMC to land those deals and pay Quantum a licensing fee.
“The EMC change did clarify things,” he said. “We made an aggressive shift in our go to market focus as the EMC relationship went through a dramatic change. We always struggled with large accounts on whether we would compete with our partner there. But after EMC bought Data Domain, we said we’re going to play to win. ”
On the earnings call, Quantum executives said they see opportunities to partner with other storage vendors looking to add deduplication. Afterward, Belluzzo said he’s still talking to new possible OEM partners.
“It’s too early to suggest the timing of a deal, but we expect to have another OEM partner,” he said. “We have a number of opportunities, although they could take different forms from the EMC deal.”
Belluzzo sees other possible openings for Quantum in the wake of the EMC-Data Domain deal. Quantum is already a Symantec OpenStorage (OST) partner, and Belluzzo says the vendor is looking to add resellers who feel left out in the wake of the EMC-Data Domain deal.
“There’s confusion in the reseller channel,” he said. “Some may have a relationship with EMC and not Data Domain, or the other way around, and there’s some insecurity around that. We get that feedback from a lot of people.”
Quantum is hoping its new DXi6500 midrange dedupe system can bolster sales through the channel.
“This was a critical quarter for Quantum given the economic downturn and changes in the deduplication landscape,” Belluzzo said. “Despite these factors, we were able to deliver strong results.”
Quantum’s stock price increased a whopping 21.5% today, up 35 cents to $1.98.