Let’s climb the Object Storage Mountain

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Big Event, organized by Greg Duplessie in Santa Clara. The 2-day event gathers 40-50 executives of the Storage Industry from startups like Scality to big vendors like EMC.

There were a lot of interesting sessions, ranging from an analysis of the current VC market, to a discussion about Mergers and Acquisitions to an open discussion on Marketing 101 for startups.

But of all of those sessions, I felt like one of the most interesting sessions was the one, instigated i believe by one of the vendors (Quantum, not to name it), about an Object Storage Summit. The idea was to gather Object Storage Vendors as well as the ecosystem around the technology and have an open discussion on whether or not it’d make sense to have a similar thing as the Tape Summit for our industry.

To give you an idea, this is the headline for the Tape Summit “State of the Union Memo” 2012:

On May 16, 2012 representatives of tape storage providers BDT, Crossroads Systems, FUJIFILM,HP, IBM, Imation, Iron Mountain, Oracle, Overland Storage, Quantum, Spectra Logic and Tandberg Data issued the following memo to set the record straight on the current trends, usages and overall health of the tape industry.

The list of vendors is quite impressive considering that most of them are competitors. The Tape Summit has succeeded in giving Tape, if not a second life, a prolonged life by offering a consistent, strong message and positioning to the Market.

Going back to what matters to us, in this case Object Storage, we had representatives of the main actors in the market, and obviously the discussion was a little awkward at first. But past that first step, some common topics were discussed:

  • One of the main problem is the education on what object storage is and why it matters
  • We’re entering an era where Object Storage is now being recognized by Analysts and Press, and more and more by the market at large, but there is still a lot of work to do.
  • Should we change the name “Object Storage” to something with less stigma?

As a side and entertaining note, someone pointed out that “erasure coding” was one of the worst possible names for a technology in the Storage industry. Erasure does mean “the removal of all traces of something; obliteration”, after all.

As one can see, since it was the first ever meeting of this sort, we barely touched the surface and there is a lot of work to do, but I believe that there was a true and honest exchange during that first discussion that gave me hope.

One of the hurdles that I can see is that, unlike Tape, I think that our industry is disruptive and, in a way, still pretty nascent. It became obvious during the discussion that all of us vendors are facing the same “education” barrier. Some verticals get it and some don’t (yet!). And as a result, we, as vendors, are also trying to figure out how to address a broad and varied market with our brilliant technologies.
The Storage market is so dynamic these days that new storage opportunities are coming from every corner, so we have to sort of reposition ourselves quite constantly. Actually, it’s more about broadening our position rather than changing it most of the time, which is better but also more challenging. More exciting.

To conclude, my point is that trying to figure out a common strategy and positioning as an industry, while we, as individual vendors are still working/broadening on our own, might be a challenge.

Nevertheless, I was very pleased with the result of this first attempt at a discussion at the Big Event, and I’m confident that we can be successful in laying out a strong, albeit high-level positioning and messaging around Object Storage that will help the whole industry and our markets.
This industry is filled with very smart people, some of whom I can luckily even call friends. So, even though we’re in competition, I’m pretty excited to be part of this adventure with them.

Be ready to hear from the next steps of the “Object Storage Summit” in the next few weeks. To continue on this post’s title theme, our Sherpa, Greg Duplessie will let everyone know about the next steps on this climb.

-Marc Villemade

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