Vendor blogs: So much fun!

Most of my recent blog activity has been spent commenting on other people’s blogs.  Specifically, vendor blogs.  It takes some serious chutzpah, and you have to be very respectful (even if you don’t feel like doing so), but it can be very rewarding as well.  This blog entry talks about some of the blogs I’ve been commenting on and why.
Vendor blogs are interesting.  Company A allows Person A to have a blog, but doesn’t censor, nor endorse, what they say.  (FWIW, the same is true of  See my employer’s disclaimer on the left.)  It allows the blogger some freedom to be a bit more, shall we say, out there, without opening the company up to any liability.  In most cases, the blog entries aren’t looked at by legal, edited by any editors, etc.  Just like my blog, I write something, I click Publish, and voila!

I treat vendor blogs as a printed version of a sales rep talking to me.  I expect the sales rep to tell me all the best things about their product and none of the bad.  I expect them to try to bash the competition at some point (although I don’t like it when they do), but I also believe that the best source about their competition isn’t them; it’s their competition.  So when they tell me that the other vendor’s blood is green, I don’t believe them.  I grab the nearest sales rep and prick them with a needle and look very closely.

I use a vendor’s blog to find out what that vendor is thinking.  What flavor is their kool aid?  You can learn a lot about vendor’s products by what they say and what they don’t say.  (Like when I read a vendor blog that tells me that one of the reasons that you might not want to dedupe all data is if it’s restore speed matters.  That tells me that there’s apparently a major difference in restore speed between deduped and non-deduped data for their systems.  I’ll have to look into that.)

Also, when I’m reading a vendor blog (or any blog for that matter), I’m not expecting scholarly research or verification of facts.  It’s a blog.  (I’d put Wiki entries on a slightly higher level, as at least they can be fact checked and edited by others if they choose to do so.)  The only fact checking we get with the blog is the comments.

Speaking of comments, I’m a purist.  I think comments shouldn’t be censored, except for the obvious spam or curse words.  But not all vendor bloggers agree with me.  Most of them require approval of comments before going on line.  (Both of the EMC blogs & the Data Domain blog I’m commenting on do that.)  And some of them (specifically the two EMC bloggers) have admitted to screening certain bloggers’ comments if they find them “personal attacks,” or whatever.  Their thought is, “it’s my blog and I set the rules.”  They seem to let most comments through (not only positive ones), but they shut you down if they think you’re being rude.  The secret, it seems, to getting your comments through on the EMC blogs is to remain civil, attacking the message without attacking the messenger or the company he/she works for.  That, and it helps to not work at NetApp.   (That’s a joke, OK, Chuck & Scott?)

So, on to the blogs I’ve been reading and commenting on and what I think about them.

  • EMC:

    • Storage-related blog from EMC VP Global Marketing CTO, Chuck Hollis.  Chuck is an unabashed support of EMC.  I find most of his stuff pretty interesting, but he does occasionally make some rather odd assertions to make his point, such as when he suggested that RAID 5 with a global hot spare was somehow equivalent to RAID 6
    • My big complaint about Chuck’s blog is that he’s a comment blocker.  If he doesn’t like how you’re saying something, he’ll block you.  (There’s someone at NetApp that’s currently blocked.  I’m going to guess it’s Val.)  And yet, at the same time he’ll take advantage of the unrestricted commentability of NetApp’s site.  I just don’t think that’s playing fair.
    • It’s when he starts talking about NetApp, though, that you need to put your BS filter on high.  His knowledge of how NetApp’s work and what their customers do with them is very limited and comes mainly (it seems) from documentation.  Therefore, when he starts extrapolating and making conclusions about how NetApp’s must work (based on their documentation), he sometimes draws conclusions that no NetApp-savvy person would agree with.  If you want to see what I’m talking about, get yourself an hour or so of free time, and read this series of blog posts (and all the comments from me, Stephen Foskett, and NetApp’s Val Bercoviki):
    • Your Usable Capacity May Vary
    • Updates to the Capacity Post
    • A Final Update — Storage Capacity Efficiency
    • Odds and Ends (Or as I called it, one more final update.)
    • Another Year, Another Blogoversary (or as I called it, Let me pick take one more jab at NetApp on this capacity thing.)
  • EMC:
    • Backup-related blog by Scott Waterhouse, EMC SE.  Chuck’s a techy, and talks techy — and I like that.  He understands techy things, like the fact that RAID 6 is better than RAID 5.  In fact, in an opposing post to Chuck’s post (another blogger from his own company), he berated NetApp for not having RAID 6 in their VTL.  Funny that he was arguing the exact opposite of Chuck’s blog at almost the same time, huh?
    • Scott’s best information is when he’s explaining how things work and why, often resorting to math to prove his point, as in his recent post about dedupe and replication speed.  He does a really good job showing how an EMC dedupe box would compare to a Data Domain dedupe box when looking at overall backup and replication time, even though Data Domain is an inline box and they’re a post-process box.
    • Scott also blocks comments he doesn’t like, and continues to comment on the blog of the person he’s blocked, as they’ll allow him to post.  Again, not a fan of that particular practice.
    • Scott is also no NetApp lover, and some of the flame wars that have gone on between them have been nothing short of all out war.  From what I’ve read, neither side escapes some of them unblemished.
  • Data Domain:
    • Brian Biles is a founder of Data Domain, and this is a relatively new blog.  One thing I can tell you is that he, unlike the first two bloggers that I’ve talked to, seems willing to go back and actually edit a post when he’s wrong.  The EMC bloggers tend to leave the original post in its entirety, even if part of it is completely wrong.
    • The Data Domain blogs don’t allow comments at this time.  That’s one way to go. Just block everyone.
  • NetApp:
    • NetApp-related blog from Val Bercoviki, NetApp CTO-at-large.  This blog talks about all things NetApp, often using tongue-in-cheek humor and a lot of movie references to make his points.  (The humor doesn’t always go over very well when he’s talking about others.  Consider these posts:
    • Val does not censor or even approve comments.  They go in immediately after typing.
    • Another new blog from Jay Livens, SEPATON Marketing.  The title is implying that their product, unlike others, focuses on restore performance.  (I told them that maybe they should start advertising deduped restore performance, then.  They claim to have good numbers, but they’re not on the shiny sheets.  We’ll see how they respond.)  He’s putting his spin on things and commenting on other vendors’ blogs and what they’re saying about themselves and SEPATON’s products.
    • Jay also was open to editing a post when it was factually incorrect.  I haven’t commented on his blog yet, so I don’t know if he’s a filterer or not.

And there you have it: the reason I haven’t posted in a while.  I’m too busy commenting on other people’s blogs!

----- 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 Evangelist 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.

6 thoughts on “Vendor blogs: So much fun!

  1. chollis says:

    Hi Curtis — interesting reading.

    Despite your interest in remaining at a comfortable observational distance from vendor blogging, I’m afraid you’re rolling in the mud with the rest of us to a certain extent.

    Let’s start at the beginning — affiliations.

    As VP of Data Protection for Glasshouse, you’ve got a certain vested interest to position yourself (and your company) as a recognized and somewhat independent authority on certain issues, and to not let vendors in this space sway the discussion too much, right?

    From my perspective, that would make this blog a “vendor blog”. Perhaps a more genteel version than some, but a vendor blog nonetheless.

    And comments! Boy, you really didn’t like the fact that I shut down a certain misbehaving individual for a while. You seem to have very strong opinions on that.

    I was looking at your blog, and wondering why there are so few comments.

    When I went to leave one, I was presented with a registration process, with a click-the-link email to gain permission merely to leave a comment.

    Everyone has different perspectives on this sort of thing; mine is that you shouldn’t require a lengthy registration process from your readers just for the privilege of sharing their thoughts.

    Moreover, if you’re someone like me, you visit all sorts of sites, and it’s hard to remember dozens of different usernames and passwords.

    However, I recognize your right to manage this commenting process in any way you see fit.

    Now let’s get into a more important topic: acceptable and unacceptable conduct. Many of us believe that personal attacks on individuals are verboten, and avoid it as much as humanly possible.

    Many of us also believe that when comments turn into consistent personal attacks, they become verboten as well.

    Much in the way many people instinctively filter curse words, sexual references, racial epiteths and so on — many of us filter “hate comments” as inappropriate.

    I don’t believe you’ve had the opportunity to deal with this issue yet. Most of your posts are uncontroversial in nature.

    But — should you venture out into more controversial territory, you too may have to decide when and where to draw a line with people.

    Everyone brings a different belief system to this relatively new social phenomenon of blogging.

    I tend to ascribe to complete transparency (warts and all), and managing the conversation to keep it productive and relatively polite. I do not believe there is a need to censor opposing opinions — that’s what makes it fun!

    Others approach it differently. That’s their right — their house, their rules.

    Best wishes for the continued success of your blog!

  2. cpjlboss says:

    The reasons I don’t see this site as a vendor site are 1) you don’t see me talking about my company or their products on this site (although I could), 2) they don’t pay for the site, 3) they don’t censor the site, and 4) the site has been around longer than my employer and will continue if I were to ever leave there. So I see it as a very different site than yours. I’m not denigrating your site, I’m just saying I think mine is different.

    I require registration for a few reasons. The first is that I don’t believe in anonymous posting of comments, which is what your blog allows. I can type anything into your comment window and that’s what you see. As far as I’m concerned, that’s anonymous. Backupcentral is also a very popular site and a big target for spammers, and I would have a ton of comment spam if I didn’t. (I still get it anyway. I can’t imagine how much I would get without registration.)

    Backupcentral is also a lot more than the blog, with forums and wikis that you can only contribute to if you register. Sign up for one: get all!

  3. cpjlboss says:

    Frankly, you should be glad you weren’t included! I was mainly talking about the “you suck and we don’t” sites. 😉 Fromn what I’ve seen, your blog actually just tries to help NetBackup users understand NetBackup. You’re not blogging about why NBU is awesome and others are not.

  4. ValB says:

    Excellent overview Curtis! I couldn’t agree more about the futility of some vendors attempting to FUD their competitors instead of selling intrinsic value.

    Even more significantly, your progressive views against comment censorship are critical to an open and transparent web which is essential to advancing the sharing of knowledge.

    Val Bercovici
    NetApp Office of the CTO
    Vice-Chair, SNIA Solid State Storage Initiative

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