ZL files lawsuit against Gartner

Email archiving software vendor ZL (who, by the way, I never heard of until this lawsuit) is suing Gartner for saying that they’re a “niche player.”   According to the lawsuit they bring this action “in its individual capacity and on behalf of the general public,” as Gartners actions have harmed “the creative forces of American innovation, and, consequently, the long-term competitiveness of the American economy.”

While I appreciate ZL’s attempt to look out for me (as a member of the general public) and its concern for the economy that ultimately keeps me employed, I’ve got to say that IT IS MY OPINION (you saw that, right, ZL lawyers?) that their lawsuit has no real merit but will serve its purpose nonetheless, and this blog post will actually help accomplish their goal.

If you’d rather skip my analysis and go straight to the funny part, just look for the heading, “Overheard in a courtroom somewhere.”

1. They claim that Gartners claims are false because they “do not involve a single minute of independent testing.”

Did Gartner ever SAY that they tested the products they’re evaluating? No.  They said they interviewed 1000s of people.

2. Gartner’s great sin is that they called ZL a “niche player” and they said that “ZL is primarily a product and engineering-focused company. To remain viable vendor in the market, the company must gain greater visibility and more aggressively expand its sales channels”

Wow, that really stings.  They said they are a niche player (which, if their market share is single digits, they ARE — again my OPINION).  And they said that they should gain greater visibility (who could argue with that. What company doesn’t want to do that?) and they need to expand their sales channels.  (Doesn’t a company with a very small market share NEED to expand their sales channels?”

3. ZL says “The Defamatory Statements are false”

Did they submit any proof that they don’t own a minority share of the market?  Do they NOT need to get more visibility and expand their sales?

How is what they said false?

4. ZL says that “the MQ is biased in favor of large vendors with large sales and marketing budgets.”

I’m sorry, no.  Symantec’s product started out just like they did, but they just EXECUTED better and were ultimately acquired by Symantec due to their execution and vision. (Hmmm; those terms sound familiar)  In addition, if you look at the other niche players, you’ll find other “small companies” like IBM, HP and EMC.

It’s not in favor of large companies.  It’s in favor of companies with large market shares.  And here’s MY OPINION on that.  If I’m going to ARCHIVE some stuff into a PROPRIETARY format, then I want the company who provided that format to be around as long as I am, and market share is a BIG portion of that happening.  Shall I begin listing all of the companies with low market shares that have disappeared over the last few years? Market share is a HUGE factor in evaluating technology.

Guess what ZL.  Betamax kicks VHS’s butt in quality.  But VHS got the distribution rights for all of the back catalogs and guess what?  They got the market share and Betamax went the way of the dodo.  You can find it right next to the HD-DVD player in the “good technologies that didn’t make it” section of your local museum.

5. Gartner’s countersuit says that “to constitute trade libel, a statement must be false.”

Yeah.  That’s kind of a big deal and I learned that in Business Law 101. What did they say that was false?

ZL’s claim of bias in favor of “large companies” is belied by the Magic Quadrant reports themselves. Appearing in the same “Niche” category as ZL are a number of very large companies including IBM, Hewlett Packard, and EMC.

6. Is being a niche player such a bad thing?  Look at this link from Gartner:

“Niche players do well in a segment of a market, or they have limited ability to innovate or outperform other vendors. This may be because they focus on a functionality or geographic region, or they are new entrants to the market. …  Niche players may have reasonably broad functionality but with limited implementation and support capabilities, and relatively limited customer bases .. A niche player may be a perfect fit for your requirements. … it may be a risky choice because its long-term viability will be threatened.”

Me again: It may be a great product, but if it doesn’t gain traction it could go the way of Betamax.  And that’s a concern!

7.  Here’s my favorite part.  I did a search for “niche player gartner” and found three links.  All three are companies that are EXCITED to even be considered by Gartner:

This is a phenomenal milestone for Nstein to be included by Gartner in its prestigious report,”

We consider our positioning in the Gartner quadrant to be confirmation of PineApp‟s growing visibility and presence in global markets. We believe it enables us to further our mission and provide our customers improved network and business performance,”

“In my opinion, being evaluated in this report is proof that our unique approach is redefining hosting,”

Overheard in a courtroom somewhere:

Gartner: You want answers?

ZL: I think I’m entitled to them.

Gartner: You want answers?!

ZL: I want the truth!

Gartner: You can’t handle the truth!

ZL, we live in a world that is dominated by market share. And that market share has to be created. Who’s gonna create it? You? You, Kon Leong?!

I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for the customers you lost and you curse my magic quadrant. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Betamax’s death, while tragic, probably saved millions of customers from having to have two VCRs. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, prevents people from buying the next Betamax.

You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about on your blog, you want my magic quadrant.  You need my magic quadrant.

We use words like execution and vision…we use these words as the backbone of our opinion-based reports we call the magic quadrant. You use them as a punch line to fill out a lawsuit.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a company who gets sales leads merely from being mentioned in my magic quadrant and then questions the manner in which I create the quadrant.  I’d prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you sit down at a keyboard and let’s see if you can make sense of emerging markets.

Either way, I don’t give a dang what you think you’re entitled to.

ZL: (quietly) Did you call us a niche player.

Gartner: I did what my thousands of subscribers asked me to do



ZL: DID YOU CALL US A NICHE PLAYER?!

Gartner: You’re dang right I did!

Now that’s funny right there.

----- Signature and Disclaimer -----

Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Architect at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.

One thought on “ZL files lawsuit against Gartner

  1. nickpc says:

    Curtis,

    This is truly brilliant on behalf of ZL. You’d never heard of them, but now they’re the topic of a Mr. Backup Blog entry! And tell me you didn’t peek at their product and technology – I’m sure you did. And a few other people who read this as well. And if they’ve angered Gartner against them in future MQ’s, well, they can play that as well, if they stay smart.

    I found my favorite used bookstore when they advertised on the local news that they were closed during a “Winter Weather” event – they were between IBM and NetApp in the list of Local Businesses that had modified hours.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if ZL gets 10 sales calls, and one deal, out of your posting this entry.

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