Or maybe it is just a really advanced technology
Dell has just been anointed a “leader” in mid-range enterprise storage. By Gartner!

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant
Companies are just as insecure and twitchy as people are, especially public traded ones. Dell’s been on a downward roll for some time under Kevin Rollins, who just got booted out – after earning several hundred million on his options – in favor of returning Michael Dell to the helm. So some good news from Gartner Group is certainly worth promoting. Gartner’s very profitable Magic Quadrant business measures companies on “Completeness of Vision” and “Ability to Execute”. So if you are big and sell a wide range of products and hire Gartner to do your “vision” work, you’re in clover.

Leading Analyst Firm’s Evaluation Based on Completeness of Vision, Ability to Execute”

Note the qualifiers there: completeness of vision; ability to execute. You don’t actually have to do anything to win this award.

You are big, therefore you must be a leader
Gartner is quoted defining these capabilities as

According to Gartner, “A midrange enterprise disk array vendor in the Leaders Quadrant has the market share, credibility and marketing and sales capabilities needed to drive the acceptance of new technologies. It demonstrates understanding of market needs, is an innovator and thought leader, and has well-articulated plans that customers and prospects can use in designing their storage infrastructures and strategies.”

Gartner’s “ability to execute” evaluation criteria include a vendor’s product, services, overall viability, market responsiveness, sales execution, pricing and customer experience. Its “completeness of vision” criteria evaluate market understanding, marketing and sales strategy, product strategy, business model, innovation and geographic strategy.

Dell’s been taking it is the chops lately
And for good reason. They turned themselves into the Wal-Mart of the computer industry through low prices (good) and mediocre design (bad). Then Apple and HP come along with better looking products at the mid-range and the white-box folks come along with even cheaper products at the low-end and kicked the stuffings out of Dell. Then Dell proceeded to trash its good reputation for phone support with a lame outsourcing effort to India: spend 40 minutes on the phone with “Darren” and then get told to re-install Windows.

Leader, or all elbows at the trough?
Dell has done some good things with storage over the years. Their deal with EMC has sold a lot of reasonably solid gear to smaller businesses. They are pushing iSCSI, which makes all kinds of sense for the mid-range and below. Theoretically they’ve done something cool with Microsoft, but darned if I can find it on their Byzantine website. So they are in there pitching, but does that make them a “leader” or just another large company in the storage business trying grab more market share?

The StorageMojo take
I don’t consider Dell a thought leader in anything, least of all storage. They are a traditional, stack-’em-high, sell-’em-cheap high-volume vendor. They spend almost nothing on R&D, leaving that to partners. I believe they work hard to make sure the products are reliable and they clearly want to improve their service capability, which are good things. They have a fine business model, but to call it “leadership” is to pervert the meaning of the word.

Yet in this time of turmoil, Dell’s marketing folks should take what pleasure they can in the Gartner kudos. Customers though, shouldn’t spend more than a moment thinking about Gartner’s pointless quadrant.

Comments welcome, as always.