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Six months ago, there were no groups dedicated solely to storage users. As of this week, there are three.
Jon Toigo's Data Management Institute started the ball rolling in May. This week, the Association of Storage Networking Professionals (ASNP) joined the fray, and the Information Storage Industry Center (ISIC) at the University of California, San Diego announced that the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) had become a founding sponsor of its StorageNetworking.org initiative.
Do storage users really need a group (or three) to represent their interests? Even SNIA, which has its own user forums, now appears convinced.
Analysts, however, are mixed on the forums' potential.
Enterprise Management Associates senior analyst Mike Karp, who has been briefed by ASNP, says he sees "strong potential for good in what they do."
By bringing together disparate users, the groups can identify common problems and make suggestions. That should benefit vendors too, Karp says.
"If this organization really represents users, it should be successful, and vendors should love it too," continues Karp. "I'm prepared to be very positive on this once we see how it starts to shake out."
Only one of the groups – StorageNetworking.org – is a non-profit, which raises some eyebrows among analysts. Karp believes that's not an issue as long as users get value from their membership.
But Steve Duplessie, senior analyst and founder of Enterprise Storage Group, is more, uh, skeptical of the new groups.
"I hate them," Duplessie says in characteristically blunt fashion. "They all have capitalistic purposes, overt or hidden. I like anyone who really tries to help these poor souls, but I really haven't seen a pure play...I'm a capitalist, so I can't blame them, but let's call a spade a spade, eh?"
ASNP Launches in U.S., Abroad
ASNP launched this week with 22 chapters, 14 in the U.S. and eight abroad, and a Regional Directors' Council representing major companies and institutions like Home Depot, AOL, Washington Mutual, and the Mayo Clinic.
The companies that the regional directors represent manage more than 1500 terabytes of storage and have a combined annual storage budget of more than $200 million, says ASNP. The regional directors are IT managers and directors who were recruited for their experience in managing complex storage networks, according to the association.
"There is so much hype in the storage networking market, which leads to a lot of confusion among users making decisions," says ASNP California chapter director Tom Giannetti, Home Depot's director of information services of operations. "The ASNP will provide a much-needed resource for the end user of storage networks."
Daniel Delshad, chairman and founder of the Storage World Conference, is behind ASNP and will oversee the ASNP's board and operations.
"The enthusiastic support that we've received from our founding members underscores the value and need for the ASNP," Delshad states. "The resources that the ASNP provides will help make users' jobs easier and help them save time."
ASNP has begun a membership campaign to recruit members for the first chapter meetings, which will take place in January. As part of the campaign, the $199 annual membership fee will be waived for the first 1,000 members. The organization is open to users who manage storage networks as well as educators and students.
StorageNetworking.org Gets SNIA Backing
Meanwhile, ISIC's StorageNetworking.org initiative picked up SNIA's backing.
"As a vendor-neutral industry organization, the SNIA strives to make storage networking technologies understandable, easier to implement, simpler to manage, and recognized as valued business assets," states SNIA chair Sheila Childs. "We see the StorageNetworking.org initiative as promoting these same values."
StorageNetworking.org says its mission is to support users of data storage technology by stimulating the creation of local and regional storage networking user groups (SNUGs as the group calls them) so that users can exchange information with peers and experts. The initiative is also developing an online resource portal to provide access to user group resources, industry-specific educational resources, academic research, discussion groups, news, and information.
"Data storage can be confusing, complex, and difficult to implement," says ISIC director Roger Bohn. "Through the StorageNetworking.org initiative, we intend to facilitate discussions between data storage users so they can benefit from their own experiences as the demands on their time and resources continue to grow. At the same time, we and our academic partners also intend to make it easier for individuals to locate relevant educational opportunities, university research, and news and information."
Current members of StorageNetworking.org's academic advisory board include: the Center for Magnetic Recording Research at UCSD; the San Diego Supercomputer Center; UCSD Extension; the University of Minnesota's Digital Technology Center; Penn State University's School of Information Sciences and Technology; the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' Network, Information, and Space Security Center; and the Singapore Data Storage Institute's Network Storage Technologies Division. The group plans to add additional academic institutions, industry associations, technology experts, and data storage users over time.
So with all these user groups to choose from, who's going to win?
Karp refuses to handicap the field. "They're all just getting started," he says. "They don't spring full-grown from the head of Zeus. They have to grow."
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