Is there a Lou Gerstner for storage?

The storage industry has a huge propensity to get way ahead of users with storage technology. Cataloguing the constellation of products out there would fill a Tolstoy-scale book. And yet, I continue to hear the same themes from the user community: We have difficulty managing storage growth and the storage environment, and we still have trouble integrating what we need from vendors.

I see a major services opportunity, one that matches available technology with clearly and easily identifiable user needs. What I don't see is a single major player willing to step up to the opportunity. I've asked why. The answers I get range from: "The sales force won't sell it," (because a proposed solution might require another vendor's product, oh no!), to "The sale force can't sell it," (insert picture of analyst with blank stare).

What the storage industry needs is another Lou Gerstner. It is my view that Lou came to IBM when IBM had lost its way. IBM achieved early glory by selling computing as opposed to computers. The corporate world needed to understand what a computer could do first before buying one. IBM showed the way. The blue suits sold computing. Only later did IBM stray from its strength by merely selling IBM-branded computers.

As a neophyte to the computer industry, Lou's genius was to see that IBM had lost its way and brought the company back to where it started. He transformed IBM into a services-lead behemoth. IBM once again sold computing so much so that IBM's services revenue now leads all other sources of revenue combined.

What we have in the storage industry is n number of vendors selling storage. We have zero vendors selling storing. Is there another Lou Gerstner out there? If so, your time has come.

John Webster is senior analyst and founder of research firm Data Mobility Group LLC. He is also the author of numerous articles and white papers on a wide range of topics and is the co-author of the book Inescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence (IBM Press, 2005). Webster can be reached atjwebster@datamobilitygroup.com.

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