Understanding And Interpreting Analysts’ Analysis

By Chris Evans

Choosing the right storage, data protection or other solution for your business can be an expensive and multi-year commitment. Making the right choice is, therefore, essential.

Today technology changes at such a pace that it can be hard to keep up with trends, new products and vendor announcements. One source of information on the direction of the IT industry is vendor reports and “magic quadrants.”

In a recent Commvault webinar, I joined Stephen Foskett and Karen Lopez to debate the value of this information source. We looked at how vendor analysis is compiled, how the data is presented and, ultimately, how this content should be viewed in the context of decision-making. 

Background

Graphical maps of vendor ratings are common and well known in the industry. Forrester produces the “Wave” diagram, based on a square and concentric arcs of circles. Gartner issues the “magic quadrant” that rates vendors in one of four categories. In both cases, these analysis charts cover a specific industry topic, such as data protection (Forrester uses the term Data Resiliency; Gartner adopts Data Centre Backup & Recovery).    

Vendors with a strong showing appear on the upper right of the diagrams, while vendors with weaker ratings are typically lower and to the left. What’s important to recognise with both of these frameworks is that they demonstrate capability and vision rather than anything specific about a product. Charts are generally accompanied by a detailed report that digs into a more comprehensive SWOT analysis of the market and each vendor in the research. 

Review, analyse, repeat

How are these charts produced? Typically, analyst firms will interview leading suppliers in the market the reports cover. This process will have criteria around the inclusion of vendors based on sales, product suitability and a minimum set of features. The evaluation process can be expected to be transparent and well-structured. This approach gives customers purchasing these reports (they’re not free) reassurance of a fair comparison. However, there is always likely to be an amount of subjective opinion to accompany the objective data.

Strategy

In an industry where there are so many players in each market segment, MQ reports provide a valuable first step in narrowing the field of vendor and product selection. They help IT teams determine which products and solutions should be picked for further investigation or evaluation.  This information can be especially useful when an IT organisation is looking to evaluate technology from an area in which they have no direct expertise. 

However, I think the value of these reports isn’t purely in the point-in-time snapshot of the market they offer. Gartner and Forrester (and others) regularly update their MQ reports, and so provide a timeline of improving or declining capability. By reviewing many MQ reports, customers can build up a picture of which vendors are the rising stars, those falling behind and those leading the pack.

Trend

Understanding the industry trend in a market segment is critical because investments in technology are typically multi-year commitments that tie a company into a product for years to come. This risk is especially true in data protection, where a solution could be in place for a decade or more.  Picking the wrong product at the start can result in a costly decision further down the line.

Conclusion

I recommend watching the replay of the webinar, “Who analyzes ­the analysis?­ An independent conversation on backup and recovery research.” This blog provides only a snapshot of our discussion that goes into more specific detail on vendor positioning within the MQs. It’s essential to understand exactly what these reports offer and how to interpret the data they present. Used correctly, they will save time, effort and money in the long run.