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DCIG

Founded in 2005, DCIG (Data Center Infrastructure Group) is a group of analysts with IT industry expertise who provide informed, insightful, third party analysis and commentary on IT hardware, software and services.

DCIG independently develops and licenses access to DCIG Buyer's Guides. DCIG Buyer's Guides provide actionable intelligence through comprehensive, in-depth analysis of data center infrastructure product features. DCIG also develops sponsored content in the form of blog entries, customer validations, product reviews, special reports and executive, standard and full-length white papers. DCIG's target audiences include C-level executives, IT managers, systems and storage engineers and architects, press/media, magazine and website editors, bloggers, financial and technical analysts, and cloud service providers.
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editor's comments:- DCIG entered the SSD market research business in July 2010 with a Fusion-io focused paper about SSD Architecture and PCIe SSDs.

But thereafter DCIG wisely avoided focusing too much on drive level SSD market reports - an area where it had little native expertise and a topic which came to be over supplied by many storage market research companies.

In recent years (2014 onwards) DCIG has - instead - focused instead on leveraging its enterprise based experience on a series of buyers guides which focus on different type of SSD box products (hybrids, rackmount SSDs etc).

These guides have become well known in the industry - assisted in no small part by publicity from vendors - whose products have received good reviews or comments in their pages.

I had misgivings about the usefulness of the scoring systems which were used in early versions of these systems guides.

The main reason for my concern being that attributes used within such scoring systems were not generally applicable within the enterprise SSD user base.

This has been an emerging problem for the product marketers in leading SSD systems companies too - and not just for analysts - for reasons analyzed in my article - Decloaking hidden and missing segments in the analysis of market opportunities for enterprise rackmount flash.

So in my view - the early vintage reports from DCIG were a mixture of valuable data mixed with inferences which could be unreliable in many contexts. I fed my concerns back to DCIG - who said they welcomed that kind of feedback.
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DCIG ranks top rackmount SSD vendors
Editor:- March 31, 2014 - If you're interested in rackmount SSDs then DCIG has published the DCIG 2014-15 Flash Memory Storage Array Buyer's Guide (free sign-up page) - which provides detailed comments on the strengths and weaknesses of rackmount SSD systems from 20 different vendors - which are currently available in the market today (includes list prices).

DCIG have created their own multi-dimensional scoring system in which they look at component features such as density (TB/U), software compatibility (for example ease of integration with VMware), and management functions (dedupe, tiering, snapshots etc). DCIG has ranked these systems overall - and compared many of them to others in the same price band. Another useful feature of the report is a background story about the design heritage or market history of each product.

Editor's comments:- I've read the report and think it's a good read with respect to the raw data and detailed observations about many of the systems listed.

As to the product rankings?

I think whether you agree or not - depends on whether you would assign the same weights to each constituent in the confidential matrix of factors which DCIG have devised.

For some users it will reflect your own priorities - for others - the scoring outcome would be entirely different.

Among the SSD vendors listed in the report - the happiest will be Nimbus (who have been crowing today about being #1) - and happy too should be HP (which is #2).

Some vendors - whose products are best in class in a particular dimension - don't score highly in the main list because they lose out on the "sum of all things which DCIG think you might need" - which is an application dependent judgement - rather than being a universal "goodness" attribute.

The only company which is conspicuously absent from DCIG's list (at any rank) is Fusion-io. Does DCIG know something we don't? That's very odd.

Related articles:-
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"This is a lot like the x86 processor. Suddenly you have this cheap, commodity processor and you can build computers and eventually servers out of this architecture."
...Rick White, Fusion-io - in the DCIG article - Server-based Flash Poised to Change the Data Center - February 10, 2012
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DCIG publishes new edition of its AFA Buyers Guide
Editor:- September 30, 2015 - DCIG recently announced a new edition of its All-Flash Array Buyer's Guide (60 pages, free signup) which - from a desk based research stance - describes, comments on, and compares in depth the features of key products in this category from 18 selected vendors in the market (AMI, Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, HDS, HP, Huawei, IBM, iXsystems, Kaminario, NetApp, Nimbus Data, Oracle, Pure Storage, SolidFire, Tegile, Violin Memory and X-IO).

Editor's comments:- One of the roles for this document which DCIG suggest is as a "short list" for quickly and conveniently getting your hands on consistently-presented, in-depth datasheets for a market snapshot of products from a range of credible sources.

As to how the sample list of vendors is cast - DCIG clearly stated they do not merely rely on vendors paying them for inclusion in the list. Nevertheless one of the problems with the authority of any "buyers guide" is the degree of inclusivity and (by implication) the transparency of filtering criteria.

When you include hundreds of products in such a guide from all known vendors - then the sampling process is transparent (and those not in the guide - need to make better efforts to communicate with their market) but when you have a guide which samples only a small percentage of vendors then inevitably questions get asked about how those in the sample were chosen.

My guess on the representational value of the companies listed in the guide is that it's compatible with the kind of shortlist you'd get by sampling from 3 broad criteria.
  • companies added into the list based on public revenue criteria and corporate brand strength (to ensure inclusion of older, long established storage companies)
  • companies added into the list based on search strength, or social media derived ranking rather than revenue (to ensure sampling of some newer companies)
  • companies added into the list for arbitrary reasons (maybe they've got a particularly interesting feature which the authors want to discuss as a counterpoint to others, or maybe the authors have some special relationship with the company which means they know more about it)
It took me about 30 seconds after seeing DCIG's vendor list that the above (or some reverse analysis thought process like it) is probably as good an explanation as any for DCIG to have constructed its list.

I'm not saying that's how they did it. But if you had to construct a vendor list of reduced size (and DCIG does have to because - due to their format - it would be cumbersome, repetitious and wasteful of analyst time to scale the guide to hundreds of vendors) this is as good a way as any other - for the purpose of discussing representational features in the AFA market.

So in that respect (unlike others) I don't have any quarrel with the sample they've chosen.

It sure wouldn't be my list. But DCIG's authors are aiming to produce a different kind of guide and they see their added value as coming from their proprietary vendor scoring criteria. And that necessitates a different kind of list.

In a free competitive market - reports compete for your attention - just as much as products. And you don't have to like every feature to learn something useful from them.

DCIG's scoring criteria is where I part company with DCIG's thinking. And this is a gulf I can't bridge.

I just have to look away from these pages to prevent my crystal ball cracking for reasons I explained when discussing an earlier version of this guide back in March 2014.

I think the scoring concept intrinsically suggests a much more stable, restricted and naive model of the SSD enterprise than is currently the case. In some respects the scoring concepts are like a bridge too far and sometimes to the wrong places and sometimes entirely missing some critical destinations.

Nevertheless I'm sure DCIG's new guide will serve adequately for many people who see things the same way as the guide creators do and who like their way of doing things. So I'm sure there will be more editions of this guide in future.

It's not DCIG's fault that the enterprise SSD market resembles at times the navigational uncertainty of Lost in Space (tv series) when in the very first episode the rocket gets hit by a meteor storm.

In the SSD market we've been through a whole bunch of similar cosmic disturbances and our rocket was launched with no clear destinations in mind at the outset. The best we can hope for is plausible pragmatic reinterpretations at convenient refueking stops.

BTW - I'm not suggesting that anyone else could do a better scoring job by using different methodologies.

Instead what I'm saying is that such a style of analysis is inappropriate because of current defects in enterprise SSD market models and the general understanding of them.

While that situation persists - such simplistic "winner" style guides run the risk of advocating the essential flavor of beef to vegetarians.
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"When I talk to SSD companies - an interesting part of the conversation is often trying to figure out how products - which barely exist yet - will compete and fit into a future infrastructure which doesn't yet exist either..."
Boundaries Analysis in SSD Market Forecasting
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