User group options multiply

By Dave Simpson

If you're a storage end user with a desire to join an association of your peers, your alternatives are expanding. The Association of Storage Networking Professionals (ASNP) recently became the newest end-user organization dedicated to storage issues.

On the same day, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) announced that it had become the founding sponsor of the StorageNetworking.org initiative, an end-user organization administered by the Information Storage Industry Center (ISIC) at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). (Four other academic institutions are also involved in the project.)

On top of that, SNIA already has an end-user advisory group, recently re-named the End User Council, which SNIA will continue to expand in addition to its involvement in StorageNetworking.org, according to Sheila Childs, SNIA's chairperson.

And those aren't your only options. Earlier this year, consultant and author Jon Toigo formed an end-user "advocacy group" called the Data Management Institute. For more information about the group, go to www.datainstitute.org.

The ASNP and StorageNetworking.org have similar goals: to provide a peer forum for users to discuss storage issues, to provide a portal and Website for users, to administer regional member meetings, and to provide education and training.

The chairman and executive director of the ASNP (www.asnp.org) is Daniel Delshad, who is also chairman of the Storage World Conference, which competes with SNIA's Storage Networking World (SNW) conference.

The ASNP has set up 20 regional chapters, with 14 in the US. StorageNetworking.org is currently forming six regional user groups called storage networking user groups, or SNUGs.

ASNP membership is free to the first 1,000 members; after that, it's $199 per year. There are no membership fees for StorageNetworking.org, which is a non-profit organization.

Why another storage users group? "End users are feeling powerless when it comes to separating hype from what's real in the storage networking space," says Delshad. "ASNP will give end users a voice in the marketplace."

In comparing the ASNP to StorageNetworking.org and SNIA's efforts in the end-user community, Delshad says that "ASNP will be driven solely by end users; SNIA is an industry association made up primarily of vendors." However, the ASNP does have a number of "partner programs" for vendor involvement.

SNIA, for its part, is taking a wait-and-see stance: "If ASNP provides value to end users, then we would support it," says SNIA's Childs.

ASNP's membership goal is to have 1,000 participants by year-end and 2,000 by the end of next year. ASNP regional directors for the US-based chapters include representatives from companies such as Qwest Communications, Southern Company, Florida Institute of Technology, Barnes & Noble, Southwest Airlines, Allstate, Home Depot, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, Washington Mutual Bank, America Online, Mayo Clinic, and the University of New Hampshire.

"Storage is complicated, and the storage market is even more complicated, especially SANs [storage area networks]. If users can get together and discuss issues, they can help each other delve through all the rhetoric to the true questions, problems, answers, and designs, etc.," says Michael Thorson, section head of enterprise systems and services at the Mayo Clinic and regional director for the ASNP Minnesota chapter. "It's much too easy to get caught up in the daily grind of your company and storage management. Getting out to see how others deal with the same issues can only be an advantage."

"ASNP will give end users a voice in the marketplace with an association that will advocate for improvements in a very loud and visible way," says Tom Giannetti, director of information systems operations at Home Depot and regional director of the ASNP California chapter.

This article was originally published on November 01, 2003