User Power Gathers Steam in Storage Industry
When the Association of Storage Networking Professionals (ASNP) announced its existence at the end of September, few gave the organization much attention. Yet another storage organization among dozens of others, the headlines stated, if they said anything at all.
Four months later, however, a different picture is emerging. The ASNP now has about 1200 qualified members and just held a series of chapter meetings around the country attended by hundreds of storage end users. Why had they come? Each voiced a similar refrain.
"There is a groundswell of frustration among storage users, as you can't get a straight answer from many of the vendors," says Tom Giannetti, director of IT at Home Depot. "If each company insists its product is the best and that the others are no good, how can you decide what to buy?"
The groundswell that Giannetti refers to has catapulted the ASNP from obscurity into the limelight. A membership base of 1200 and 23 chapters formed around the nation demonstrate that the cry of user power has struck a chord. And not just within the USA. According to ASNP chairman and founder Daniel Delshad, the organization has a large Canadian following based in Toronto as well as chapters in Europe and Asia. What are members saying to the ASNP?
"We have received overwhelming support from the members who tell us we are doing the right thing and that they have been looking for something like this for years," says Delshad. "They are also very happy that we are not affiliated with vendors."
Vendor Independence a Key Catalyst
Vendor independence, in fact, appears to be the catalyst for ASNP support. Delshad reports that he has turned down about 500 membership applications from people associated with vendors in order to maintain the purity of the organizational base.
The 30 members of the 100-plus strong Southern California Chapter were in full agreement with the no-vendor policy.
"I never felt I could speak freely at vendor-sponsored events," says Giannetti, who is also regional director of the chapter. "But when you come to an ASNP chapter meeting, it is totally OK to talk."
The vendor-neutral forum appeared to help many of the members feel more comfortable in bringing up their challenges, disagreements, and pet gripes. Those in attendance discussed a variety of thorny issues such as storage management, provisioning, budgets, and auto-discovery.
Using NAS in an Oracle environment was another topic voiced. One group member doubted the success of such an arrangement due to the performance hit that would be exerted. Another responded that he had gone ahead and implemented this approach. He said that his initial performance concerns for this architecture proved to be false. Performance, in fact, had been increased by adding low-cost processors and more memory.
Another subject covered was archiving. Someone suggested the best way to handle full workstation disks was to back up old files to a CD and send it to the end user to store. While this might get around disk quota problems, others felt that this could be in violation of legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPAA. They debated who owned end user files, with most agreeing that corporate policy dictates that everything is the property of the business.
When it came to the subject of email, everyone expressed frustration about the amount of space consumed, most of it by emails and attachments that held little value to the organization. Most users present at the meeting stated they had initiated purging routines for email varying from 28 to 60 days (i.e. if an end user wants to keep email older than the purge date, it's up to that user to store it elsewhere; otherwise, it will be purged, except for audit purposes).
Delshad concluded the event by briefing attendees on ASNP plans. Training programs and certification are planned for the near future. For the moment, case studies, educational papers, and advice are available via the ASNP website.
"Our primary goal is to take our membership total up to 15 to 20,000," says Delshad. "By meeting our first year milestone of 1000 members in just three months, we have moved from the start-up stage into a full-fledged user group that can be a real force in the industry."