The European branch of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) has investigated what exactly is behind people's purchase of storage products. The findings are illuminating to say the least:

  • 42 percent of respondents saw press coverage as a high-ranking criteria in purchasing decision, with 30 percent ranking it as a medium concern
  • Analyst reports proved influential in the decision-making process, far higher than product performance or return on investment (ROI)
  • Price was seen as a lesser concern - only the UK saw it of paramount importance with 33 percent rating price as low, 28 percent seeing it as a high priority. Two-thirds of the German responses and over half from France rated price as a low concern
  • Vendors need to work harder to conform with industry standards and ensure product compliance.

That suggests rather strongly that storage purchases are influenced by brand reputation and visibility more than product price or performance. "Vendors expend vast resources analysing customer purchasing behaviour and this research illustrates how fickle they can be,” said Paul Talbut, chairman of SNIA Europe.

Of course vendors already believe that press coverage is important. But it would seem that what journalists write has a larger effect than we suspected. Unfortunately, that would explain why, as journalists, we are constantly bombarded with product news couched in the most glowing terms or, if a company doesn't have any new products, jumping on a current bandwagon, or hyping up a ridiculous product demonstrator. And for a little variation, authoritative-sounding research reports to show a need for their products or services.

And here are a few very recent examples:

Bandwagon leaping
A software engineer at America Online was arrested in New York and charged with stealing AOL's subscriber list and selling it to a spammer. According to the complaint, the engineer used another employee's ID in April and May 2003 to assemble a complete list of AOL's customer account screen names, zip codes, telephone numbers and credit card types. Decru, a supplier of storage encryption devices, says if AOL's disk drive data had been encrypted with one of its boxes the data would have been safer.

But this is not obvious at all. The thief used another employee's ID and would therefore have gained his access privileges and still been able to get the data. Nice attempt at bandwagon leaping Decru but no banana.

Hyped up product description
HP has announced "Breakthrough HP Technology Yields up to 100 Times More Bandwidth for Linux Clusters". Wow. We'd all like a hundred times more bandwidth. How do we get it? We use Lustre technology in a LInux cluster containing dozens or thousands of Linux computers. There is a single file system image and multiple Lustre servers so that files can be read and written from the file store in parallel. The file store is distributed across many many servers and StorageWorks arrays.

It is a massively virtual system and usable only in supercomputing grid environments. Bandwidth is said to be up to 3.2Gbit/s in one implementation and that translates, dividing by a hundred, to 320Mbit/s in a "normal" supercomputing Linux cluster. This is all a very long way from 2Gbit/s Fibre Channel SAN links. Don't for a moment think that HP is about to provide SANs with 200Gbit/s bandwidth.

Ranting research
Research reports are released almost weekly aimed at scaring users into buying products. For example, Trillium Software released a report into Basel II in April. It was all very reasonable, as many compliance reports seem to be. It's just that we get a little bit tired of pitches saying, in effect, buy our compliance product to avoid going to jail.

Most extreme product demonstrator of the year
Beat this. Intel, the world’s largest chip manufacturer, has created the world’s first ever surfboard with a built-in wireless laptop. The surfboard will allow surfers to check their emails, surf the web, and even record footage of themselves catching the best waves. The tablet laptop based on Intel Centrino mobile technology allows a wireless Internet connection from the surfboard to a "hotspot" on the beach.

Well, of course, we "surf" the Internet so what could be more suitable. Just don't bother asking about hard drive reliability whilst tubing crashing breakers and having a wipe out - meaning wiping out your data as well as your finely poised surfboard pose.

It's just as well that sophisticated hacks, like us, can detect these shallow attempts by vendors to gain coverage - and deny them the oxygen of publicity they crave ;-).