Buzzwords of the moment

Some people call them buzz words. I prefer "hum". Or should that be "ho-hum"?

commentary Some people call them buzz words. I prefer "hum". Or should that be "ho-hum"?

What do you think of when you hear the term "buzz"? A jolt of electricity? Excited talk? Or the New Sale of the Century show?

Those are just the reactions the people that come up with buzz words hope for. Of course, once introduced, there are always those (OK, mainly PR companies and vendors) who grab the chance to take those words and ram them down our throats so often the ear-perking buzz turns into a droning background hum.

How many storage-related stories have you read recently that have not included the term "Sarbanes-Oxley"?
As far as I can tell, there are two main reasons for OUB (Overzealous Use of Buzzwords). First, there's the "we're not really sure how to explain this concept, so we'll give it catchy name" approach. (OUB, naturally, is an exception). Gartner recently used the term "locknote" to refer to a presentation instead of keynote. Wha... ? Aside from sounding too obviously like a cutesy attempt to be different, it really doesn't make the talk seem like a very "open" way to present ideas, does it? "Monetising" an operation sounds a bit less greedy than commercialising it, but no one's really fooled, are they?

Then, there's the scare tactic approach. Here, an existing term is overused because of its ability to frighten people into thinking a desired way. For the past couple of years "security" has been so overused it has lost a lot of its meaning. But the truth is security is a top concern, and there are still many organisations that probably have not taken it seriously enough.

My favourite "hum word" at the moment is used in the storage arena. I'm sure you know the one I mean. How many storage-related stories have you read recently that have not included the term "Sarbanes-Oxley"?

At a recent two-day storage seminar I attended (put on by a major vendor), I had to resist the urge to count the number of times that phrase was solemnly intoned.

It pushes all the right buttons -- scares people into wondering whether or not they're compliant... gets them wondering if they might even be in trouble legally. Hey, we better buy some new storage equipment, quick!

Having said all that, I'm inclined to give them a break here. The storage industry has been fighting an extremely indifferent market. While at the aforementioned storage event, I have to admit that I physically cringed when another journalist said directly to one of the seminar hosts, "let's face it, storage is just not sexy!". What, and "spyware" is? Just because it has an association with James Bond and espionage? I don't know who is behind the drive to keep people using terms like "unsexy" and "snorage", but I have to say that I think storage has to be one of the most exciting fields in IT at the moment. (Yes, I'm still looking for a life... wait, see? Why'd I have to go and say that?)

It's simply because storage is no longer big boxes stuffed with spinning platters. Half of the business now has to deal with software. Just look at the acquisitions that have been going on the market: EMC grabbing Legato and Documentum (to help build out its Information Lifecycle Management approach)... Network Appliance picking up encryption expert Decru (Sarbanes-Oxley and security can be used in the same sentence!).

What is storage to you? Is it an area your organisation is currently investigating? Or is it a field with more hum words than you can count? And while I'm asking questions, what's your favourite hum word of the moment.

Brian Haverty is Editorial Director of ZDNet Australia. Buzz him at

This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
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