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Gartner Magic Quadrant: NetScout Says Secret Is Green

After Gartner analysts rank NetScout only a "challenger," Netscout files lawsuit alleging Gartner's rankings involve pay for play. Let's examine both sides of this street.

his own analyst reports never prompted a lawsuit but it was not uncommon for unhappy vendors to try to get him fired.

"Any vendor which finds itself contemplating going to the mat with Gartner should (as NetScout says it did) raise the issue with Gartner's ombudsman. If they still feel they are misplaced they should carefully analyze what has been written about them and take measures to address the perceptions of the analysts," Stiennon advises. "True, that process is easier if you are a paying client. You can bring the analysts in for a day-long strategy session. You can meet with them at Gartner conferences. You can schedule inquiries to get nuanced views on the market. All are options open to paying Gartner clients. Unfortunately, a lawsuit closes the door on that approach."

This defense implicitly acknowledges that it helps to be a Gartner client, but he argues it's far worse to get in a fight with an analyst firm.

Dennis Howlett of the IT analysis blog Diginomica is more sympathetic and thinks (as a technology observer, not a lawyer) that Netscout's case "looks to have a better chance of success" than the failed suit by ZL Technologies because of NetScout's allegation that factual corrections were ignored. A longtime critic of the way the industry analysts play their game, he also got treated to seeing his writing quoted in NetScout's complaint.

I found the Benjamin Franklin quote at the top of this story through a search for quotes about critics and criticism. I was actually thinking of the plight of the movie producer who spends millions to produce a work that craters at the box office after dismal reviews. Consider a work of art like the Eddie Murphy sci-fi comedy "The Adventures of Pluto Nash," which cost $120 million to make and paid back $7.1 million in revenue. Total loss, presumably after the cost of marketing this turkey: $145.9 million according to a ranking of the most expensive movie flops. Reviewing movies is an entirely subjective business, where a bad review could be driven as much by bad popcorn and a reviewer's bad mood as by a bad script or bad acting.

Haven't you ever enjoyed a movie that all the critics panned? One you thought was better than others released that year, by any objective criteria?

NetScout did not get a Pluto Nash review from Gartner -- more like it got a four-star review and is arguing it deserved five. It's as if Eddie Murphy made a drunken speech at the Academy Awards, claiming he was robbed. Arguably, the difference is that the movie critics (presumably) didn't apply any implicit pressure on Pluto Nash’s creators to pay up in order for them to give the flick a thumbs up.

Not to be dismissive of NetScout's complaint about factual errors in Gartner's report, but the dividing line between fact and opinion is not always so sharp. I don't know NetScout's product line well enough to judge its claim of having moved beyond a "hardware-only" model, but if Gartner's analysts thought its newer products weren't worth mentioning, that was their judgment, right or wrong.

Enterprise clients are paying to find out what the analysts really think, and that also means the subjects of its analysis should not be able to alter a report, no matter how much they pay or how loudly they complain. Gartner clients know the firm is working both sides of the street, and they wonder how far they should trust its rankings. But a whole lot of them renew their subscriptions every year anyway, which is the only real measure of how much they believe its opinions are worth.

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