Industry analysts and conflicts

Just last week I posted commentary on an analyst’s article on eWeek. Ironically, there is currently a hot discussion going on over at ByteandSwitch on another article from the same analyst. (I am purposely not linking to the article, if you want to read it visit B&S and look for Data De-Dupe Guide 2.) In this case, the discussion revolves around the analyst’s objectivity. The reality is that analysts are paid to write vendor centric papers all the time which is not problematic as long as articles are identified as such. The issue here is that the article on ByteandSwitch is vendor centric, and the author is positioning the content as vendor agnostic. The author further compounds the problem by incorrectly summarizing the available capabilities of shipping deduplication solutions. In his Mr. Backup blog, W. Curtis Preston writes about some of the errors.

The above situation brings up a bigger question. Analysts have two primary audiences, end users and vendors. Their challenge is to balance the needs of the constituencies. Vendors want the analyst to say favorable things about their product and its competitive positioning. When the product has clear benefits, the analyst’s job is easy.  When the product is weak, the situation becomes much trickier.  An end user wants an unbiased view of the market. In an ideal world, you would hope that the analyst would provide a truly unbiased opinion; however, if company A is paying an analyst $50,000 to do a whitepaper while company B is not, which company do you think would be in the forefront of the analyst’s mind? The answer is obvious, company A.

A good analyst should maintain their objectivity and keep enough distance from any given vendor to offer a broad perspective. I am not suggesting that all analysts are biased or that they do not provide value, but rather that there is a natural conflict.  My experience with industry analysts at SEPATON has been positive and the resulting write ups have been fair and balanced.  In the ByteandSwitch article, it appears that the analyst was unduly influenced by the vendors that are paying him which is very problematic.

In summary, you need to be aware of the conflicts that exist in the analyst community. As an end user, when engaging one of these firms to provide technical evaluation, you should ask which vendors are currently under contract. You should also ask for clarification on how they avoid conflicts. When reading articles on the Internet, you should always keep this conflict in mind. Most analysts do a reasonable job in maintaining an independent viewpoint; however, the conflict is always there and as we see in the ByteandSwitch article it can easily be abused.

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2 Responses to “Industry analysts and conflicts”

  1. George is nothing but a shill for whoever will pay him. Right now that appears to be Data Domain and Gresham, as he talks about nothing but inline deduplication (Data Domain) and backup virtualization (Gresham).

    He’s not talking to other vendors and doesn’t know much about backups either. He confuses things like thinking that inline deduplication and VTL are mutually exclusive. I think Diligent would have something to say about that. He’s been implementing the wrong VTLs if he thinks they’re complex to setup. Hello George! EVERY disk-thingy-for-backups has disk behind it and needs to be setup. Being a VTL or not has nothing to do with it. And what’s with that comment that even if you had a larger VTL cache, you can’t restore from disk? What POS backup product or VTL is he using? VTLs don’t reduce media purchases. Small ones don’t, but who wants one of those?

    “Unlike VTLs, only the unique segments are stored on the data deduplication device.” As if VTLs can’t do deduplication and replication?

    His last two paragraphs can be summed up as “buy Data Domain or Gresham.” Come ON! Can you even TRY to be objective? Or to understand the subject you’re writing about?

  2. I agree with your assessment and find the situation troubling. I have no problem with analysts expressing their opinions and even being paid to do so. The problem is when articles are published as unbiased when they really are not which seems to be a trend for this author. (I posted about the articles on eWeek and B&S, and there is a second article on B&S.)

    To those of us in the industry, the inaccuracies in the articles are immediately obvious. The huge issue is that the average reader will not know the industry as well and will assume that the best solutions must match the author’s description (e.g. DD and Gresham). This is far from accurate and there are many other options out there. The author is doing a disservice to the publications, end users and other vendors by providing a skewed perspective.

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