Storage Soup

Dec 28 2011   2:06PM GMT

Rear view mirror metrics don’t tell full story

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

I read all the reports on the how the storage industry is doing. These include many segments in storage hardware and software, sometimes going into great detail. These reports often come from data that is self-reported by vendors on how they’ve done in shipping products.

They draw comparisons with the previous quarter, the same quarter of the previous year and through the calendar year. These give us an idea of where we’ve been and how the different segments have fared.

But, these results look in the rear view mirror. They do not tell us how any of these vendors or the industry will do in the future. Determining future performance requires looking out the windshield.

A forecast is usually based on a projection of the trends that have occurred in the past. This indicator is often used in planning and estimating around investments, ordering, staffing, and other elements critical to making business decisions that have tremendous financial implications.

Even forecasts that meant to look through the windshield are usually based on past trends. One technique to project future trends is to look at what occurred in recent years, and assume that pattern will continue. That may be a bad assumption, and bring serious consequences.

Others use surveys to predict the opportunity, but surveys can also mislead. A survey’s accuracy depends on how the questions are asked, and who is responding to them. There is another factor that I can relate to in personal experience: the quality of the answers depends on when the questions are answered. There can be bad days…

I’ve found that conversations with IT professionals lead to a deeper understanding of what their problems are, and what they are doing. With enough of these conversations, a general direction emerges that can be used as guidance in a particular area with much greater confidence. There’s no sure-fire means, however. The best that can be done is to understand the limitations of the input you receive and use multiple inputs.

Another measure for me is gauging what the vendors believe the storage market is doing. This is much easier because the briefings, product launches, and press releases represent investments that are evidence of their belief in the opportunity. Lately, the briefings and announcements have increased – even as approaching the holidays and year-end distractions. Things do look good in the storage world – out through the windshield.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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