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Exhibitors at VMworld claim they’re setting our knowledge free

They’re selling liberty, fraternity and open IT - but which would you trust if you were a buyer?

First VMware set our servers free, so that processing power had perfect liquidity and each CPU was no longer shackled in a box. We should be thankful to them for ending the IT industry’s own version of the feudal system and taking us nearer to perfect conditions for a free market for all IT resources. Or cloud computing, as it’s been terribly mis-named.

However, companies are still shackled by their technology suppliers, having been convinced to lock up all their intelligence (AKA their data) in even more appallingly grim conditions, known as proprietary hardware.

Previous generations of the IT industry seem to have acted terribly, gaining the confidence of gullible corporations, governments and hospitals, then effectively imprisoning their most precious assets (thier intelligence and knowledge) and holding that ‘data’ to ransom.

Now VMware has created the conditions for an escape. Everyone from Atlantis Software to Zerto, Commvault to Tintri, is promising in their own way to set our knowledge free, so it can roam across the cloud and find the safest home at the best possible price. Who knows, they might even cover up the FBI peepholes too.

While data sovereignty is a peephole business, storage is becoming a people business. All the vendors are singing a similar song and it comes down to whose word is most likely to be their bond. So which company gains your tust?

For many of us, the best yardstick of trustworthiness is people who avoid parroting words like ‘innovation’ and get straight to the money.

“Tintri saves companies time and money because you can instantly see all the problems and discover the ones you didn’t know about,” says Rob Girard, technical marketing manager at Tintri. Girard is an ex-IT manager who was so impressed he crossed over to the vendor side. Pushed to quantify savings, he gives an example of a company that made 90% savings, byu cutting out all the surplus servers, thanks to Tintri’s virtualisation efforts, saving five grand on each box it cut. The job of companies like Tintri is to cut the complication, says Girard.

Commvault on the other hand, is like one of those bog standard companies you hire to do a simple job that turns out to be unexpectedly good at the critical stuff. It must be a much easier sale if you’re called in to do something simple, which is easily signed off and, once you’re there and going for a drink with the CIO after work, you convince them that you can give them the data omnipotence they’ve always dreamed of. Mark Jow, Commvault’s technical services VP, describes how its partners are often called on to solve back up problems. Having won the confidence of the client, by providiing the stability the poor client craved, the client is then delighted to hear any proposals for rationalising and federating their intellectual power base. Pretty soon, you’re being asked to completely liberate their data, so it can be migrated at will. “These are labour intensive jobs in a market where it’s difficult to find the staff,” says Jow, “we can solve these problems and make security and compliance less of an issue.”

The VMware effect means that everyone wants to go a hybrid cloud, but few know how to do it. So selling Commvault could be the right vehicle taking them there.

It’s a tricky journey though. There are certain words resellers that you should avoid when gaining trust. Overuse of the word ‘innovative’ implies that you are anything but. It’s also annoying when people say they sell ‘solutions’ but look puzzled when asked what problems they solve. The most alarming phrase is ‘IT agnostic’. If you’re not sure you believe in the existence of IT, surely you’re in the wrong business. Saying you’re agnostic indicates a worrying crisis of confidence at a time when everyone is looking for leadership.

Falconstor, however, tackles the problem of proprietary lock in by creating a common set of services that works with everything. I’m sure Gary Quinn, CEO of Falconstor, would never use the word agnostic.

“Over the years hardware people have done a great job of telling customers they can’t move,” says Quinn, who promises that Falconstor and its partners will now liberate companies. “The storage guys have been the last opposition to this liberation.” Quinn says resellers should be telling their clients they can migrate them to anything, across any hypervisor.

Zerto would beg to differ. Every time we come back to VMworld, Zerto seems to have tripled in numbers, so the company must be doing something right. Peter Godden, VP of EMEA for Zerto, claims that pure software companies like Zerto, that don’t have a legacy going back more than five years, have the nimbleness to unpick all the locks that shackle company data to their ancient hardware captivity. A privately held company, figures aren’t available but we do know it's had $70 million in venture funding since launch in 2011 and is pushing its UK channel. It’s got as many offices around the globe (14) as it has won awards for its disaster recovery, migration and replication services. Which makes it a pretty credible source.

So, which liberator would you trust to set your knowledge free?

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