Having just got back from SNW, I had some time to read through all the various announcements from different vendors.
Since I tend to read these with a jaundiced eye (as should you) I noticed a lot of "announcements" that were a bit on the squishy side as far as such things go.
Back when I was a product marketing type, I used to call this "raiding the roadmap". Nothing wrong with it specifically, but all of us in the industry ought to be alert for this sort of thing, and act accordingly.
You work for a technology vendor.
You're going to a really big industry show, like SNW for storage types.
You know that every vendor will be announcing something, because -- well -- these sorts of shows are great places to announce things, simply because you have all the press and analysts right there -- not to mention more than a few sophisticated end users.
And -- shudder -- imagine having nothing to talk about at a big industry show?
You really want to announce something as well, but there's a teensy problem: your product development team doesn't have anything ready to ship that you can announce.
So, what do you do?
You take a hard look at your roadmap, and try to (pre) announce a few capabilities just so that you have something to talk about at the show. Essentially, you're raiding your cookie jar of future product announcements just to line up with The Big Show.
Is there anything wrong with this? That's debatable on both sides, but as long as everything is above board and transparent, I think no harm done.
However, where I have an issue is where vendors who are doing this sort of thing look like they're working as hard as they can to make it look like you can go and buy the stuff today, when that's not really the case.
And working hard to mislead people, well -- that's just Not Cool in my book.
Asking The Hard Questions
So, when I read one of these announcements, I usually ask myself a few questions to frame up what I'm looking at -- is this something worth paying attention to, or merely a bit of creative marketing?
1. When Will It Ship?
Nothing wrong with announcing something that won't be available until some date in the future -- within reason, that is. I usually have a "three month" rule: if GA is promised within 90 days, I take that as a serious announcement.
And as it goes longer than that, well, I tend to be more skeptical. Worst of all are "lab experiments" that are positioned as pseudo-announcements. Not to give away any trade secrets, but if EMC "announced" all its lab experiments, we'd probably scare people :-)
The really harmful stuff -- for me, anyway -- are announcements of new features and products that have absolutely no indication as to when they might actually be usable by customers. As an example, check out this one on FCoE. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out when someone might actually be able to use the stuff. It looks intentional, too.
Now compare that with this one where it clearly says "generally available". I'd be OK if it said, for example, 90 days as well -- the point is that you're telling people exactly when it starts to become real, rather than marketing.
2. Any Customers?
OK, I admit coming up with public references is devilishly hard -- especially in larger enterprises -- where there's a strong disincentive to go public on someone's use of a technology. Smaller IT users don't have massive legal departments looming over them, so you rarely see any big name IT users putting their name to a new product or technology.
But there's no reason why your press release can't say whether or not customers are using or evaluating it, whether there's any in production, any benefits seen, etc. -- without breaching confidentiality.
Regarding FCoE (at least from an EMC perspective), we've got several customers who are anxious to set up environments and give the new protocol a workout. I'd be surprised if there was any in serious production in the near term.
Most of them are considering FCoE running side-by-side their existing FC investment -- if it all works out. Almost no one is seriously contemplating an entire FCoE buildout -- yet. OK, we couldn't put all of that in the press release, but if you ask us -- that would be what we'd tell you.
And no NDA would be required.
3. Where Does It Fit?
I think technology vendors should strive to be clear where things fit. Call it positioning, call it what you will -- there's just so much darn stuff out there that we all should work harder.
For example, going back to our previous example, EMC does not see FCoE as a replacement for iSCSI -- they're entirely different use cases and markets served. When I read the EMC press release, I'd offer we're pretty clear that we see this playing well in existing FC environments, that it's all about cost-reduction and infrastructure simplification, and it's a key step on the road to a converged ethernet fabric in the data center.
Notice it's not so much about making a big deal about "leadership" -- when it comes to EMC, that's kind of what people already expect -- it's more about telling the industry "here's where we are on FCoE today".
And I think that's a useful distinction.
Nobody Is Perfect
EMC announces lots of products, and I'm sure if someone goes backs and checks, we aren't 100% perfect in this regard. And I believe we've done our fair share of forward-looking announcements.
But if you're going to "raid the roadmap" (so to speak), all of us as vendors should strive to be as aboslutely transparent and forthright as possible as we can be with all this technology stuff.
And I'm sure we all can do better ...
What do you think?
Courteous comments welcome as always!