Column: Toilet paper as a storage metaphor

Opinion

Column: Toilet paper as a storage metaphor

It's not often we get toilet references in MicroScope, understandably so, writes Billy MacInnes.

Usually, if people are talking about technology they like to make references to aerospace engineering (via the well-worn cliche that "it's not rocket science") or to Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ("paradigm shift") or the Pareto Principle (otherwise known as "the 80/20 rule").

But during the course of a story about enhancements to Dell's Storage Smart partner programme published on 10 January, Dell head of UK public sector and large enterprise storage, Andy Hardy, wasted no time getting to the bottom of the matter as succinctly as possible.

"Having a great technology story is not enough," he said. "The key issue here in Europe is money, and partners [must] face head-on the reality that budgets are tight and yet storage is still the single fastest-growing cost in the data centre."

And then he put it in terms that everybody could understand: "It's a bit like selling toilet paper; you have to have more of it," he added. Something with which Joseph Gayetty (who introduced commercially available toilet paper in the US in 1857) would wholeheartedly agree.

Now I can see where Hardy is coming from, after all there's no doubt that people (hopefully) feel compelled to buy toilet paper, so if you're in the business of selling toilet paper, you've got a captive market.

But I have to ask when he says "you have to have more of it", does he mean people have to keep buying toilet paper or they have to buy it in ever larger quantities? I agree with the former but if it's the latter (which is truer of storage purchasing habits) then I think the people buying the toilet paper could have a problem that needs some kind of medical attention.

And when you think of why we buy toilet paper and the function it is used for, I can't help wondering whether Dell might not want people to make too close an analogy with buying storage. For instance, would that mean people were using storage to wipe up their data mess? And does it say something negative about the quality of their data? Some unkind souls out there might think Hardy was talking...He was, kind of, but in a good way. And if it flushes out more business for Dell's partners, all the better.

This was first published in January 2012

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