Storage Networking Group Gains Momentum

Friday Jul 9th 2004 by Drew Robb
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'For the user, by the user' association sees its message gaining acceptance and its ranks swell to 1,600 members.

Formed in late September of 2003, few gave the Association of Storage Networking Professionals (ASNP) much chance of success. In an industry jammed with associations and user groups, who needed another one? Yet the ASNP's determination to be an organization "for the user, by the user" appears to have struck a chord.

“Users have been telling me for years that if they raised a concern with a vendor, the usual reaction was, 'Sign this PO and we will fix the problem'”

—Daniel Delshad,
ASNP chairman

Eight months on, around 200 enthusiastic end users showed up to the first annual ASNP summit at the Hyatt Regency in Long Beach California. And many more have joined. According to ASNP chairman Daniel Delshad, membership has now surpassed the 1,600 mark, all of them storage end users.

The ASNP, in fact, has rapidly blossomed to 27 chapters around the world — 16 in the USA, and 11 international chapters — Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Korea, Nigeria, Signapore, Switzerland, and two in Canada (Vancouver and Toronto).

An obvious part of its allure is its end-user exclusivity. Vendors are not permitted full membership of the association. They can become involved in specific vendor forums, but have no say in group management and cannot participate in chapter business.

"Users have been telling me for years that if they raised a concern with a vendor, the usual reaction was, 'Sign this PO and we will fix the problem'," said Delshad. "The ASNP offers them a place to resolve storage issues without vendor pressure or bias."

According to those present at the annual summit, this message resonates with the membership.

"The ASNP is a place where members can get unbiased information about storage networking from their peers," said Chris Adriano, Storage Administrator for Southwest Gas Corporation.

Dan Pollack, principal Unix administrator at America Online agrees. "The ASNP has been a long time coming," he said. "Users need to gather outside of the vendor framework in order to participate in an open forum for sharing their experiences."

Despite their exclusion from active participation, several vendors have jumped on board the bandwagon. EMC, NeoScale and QLogic, for example, are partnering with ASNP. QLogic, in particular, is very much behind the aims of the association.

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The company's vice president of corporate marketing, Frank Berry, briefed the annual summit audience on the reasons for his involvement with the ASNP. He received an initial presentation on the organization and its goals just before its launch and immediately saw the void that it filled.

“If end users become active, they can not only have a voice, they can actually change the industry and make it adhere more closely to what end users need and want. ”

—Keone Kali, CIO,
City of Beverly Hills

"Users kind of hoped that the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) would serve end users, but that was never its function and I don't think that it will," said Berry. "This represents a new phase in the storage industry — a customer-driven phase. All vendors should join us in utilizing the ASNP to truly meet the needs of end users and bring storage technology to a new level."

Berry gave an example of Beta testing. By that time, he said, it is really too late to make any significant changes to the core product. His vision is to bring early prototypes and concepts before the membership, and redesign them based on immediate feedback from end users. By doing so, he believes a new era of user friendliness can be achieved in the storage world.

Keone Kali, CIO of the City of Beverly Hills, closed the annual summit by stressing the importance of member participation in the association, if it is to achieve its potential. He urged end users to join the various ASNP committees and groups to help push forward what is possible, not just to resolve issues with existing technology. He tasked each attendee with setting specific goals to achieve via this community in order to drive it forward.

"The ASNP represents a massive opportunity to make the end user a major participant in industry standards, technology and direction," said Kali. "If end users become active, they can not only have a voice, they can actually change the industry and make it adhere more closely to what end users need and want."

At the close of the meeting, members were urged to stay in Long Beach for the week. In association with the Storage World Conference (June 29 to July 1), the organization has set up a series of case studies and ASNP member discussion panels. These cover a wide range of topics such as how to build a storage team, how to design a scaleable SAN strategy and how to justify a storage network to management. During Storage World, ASNP regional directors are also meeting to determine exact end user needs and to chart the path of the organization over the coming year.

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