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Traditional Technology Companies – “They Know Nothing!”

One of my favorite shows to watch is nightly reruns of Jim Cramer‘s Mad Money on CNBC. Aside from his crazy antics and “They Know Nothing” sound effect, he provides some good laughs just before I call it a night. Part of the reason that I find him so entertaining is that he is not necessarily in a position where he has to be politically correct – though some might argue he no longer has to be a good stock picker either, but that’s a topic for another day.

Anyway, what caught my interest on his May 1, 2008, broadcast was that he took on the Technology sector and he said that it is time to sell traditional technology stocks. At that point I began to listen more carefully because I have tended to disagree with his observations about technology in the past. Also, since my entire career is centered on covering technology in general and storage technologies specifically, I was curious about how in touch he was with this sector.

To summarize, Cramer feels that many technology companies in Silicon Valley have forgotten their engineering roots and are no longer providing game changing technologies. They now have become so focused on sales and have so many sales people running around trying to sell their products that their engineering departments have gotten lost in the shuffle. As a result, they are no longer focused on delivering products that solve today’s immediate problems. Instead they are busy re-packaging yesterday’s technology and re-branding it in such a way that it sounds like it solves today’s problems.

Having worked as a storage engineer in a Fortune 500 and being involved in the day to day operations as well as having input into its storage buying decisions, I can certainly see his point of view. Sales representatives from traditional technology companies would constantly call on me selling products that did little or nothing to solve the problems that I was trying to solve at that time.

So in the last week I stopped by the place where I used to work just to see how things were going and little has changed except one thing: the people with whom I used to work. All of the people who bought into these 10+ year old technologies that solved yesterday’s problems are pretty much gone. And by gone, I do not mean that they were promoted to better paying jobs or leadership roles within the organization. They were gone – as in laid off. Even more ironic, the current regime is now taking the same approach as the previous generation – trying to make old technologies solve today’s problems. In that respect, my feelings echo that of Cramer’s – “They know nothing!”

I say this not to disparage my co-workers or even traditional technology companies. But when I look at the type of problems that companies face today and how they are trying to fit square pegs (traditional technology) into round holes (today’s problems), I have no doubt in my mind that a tsunami of change is gathering that will sooner or later sweep through enterprise organizations.

So do I agree with Cramer? Partially. He is right in the sense that traditional technology companies are behind the curve and that sales departments have overtaken engineering departments in too many of these companies. But I disagree with him that no innovation is occurring in technology – it’s just from his vantage point he still can’t see it.

I consider Cramer a good barometer of how close we are to a revolution of technology in general and data protection specifically. Cramer sees technology from a bird’s eye view whereas I am up close and personal with it. So when I look at products like Asigra Televaulting and its Information Recovery Management platform, I know that this is one product that disproves Cramer’s notion that no innovation is occurring in technology. Some of the cool, innovative features that Asigra is about to bring to market I will get into in a forthcoming blog entry.


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