Don't expect a quick resolution of the lawsuit that pits NetScout Systems against the Gartner Group. Just yesterday, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Charles T. Lee approved the request of Gartner attorneys to extend the deadline to respond.
The decision pushes the deadline for Gartner to respond to Oct. 20 — and pushes the deadline for Netscout to respond to Dec. 22.
In a motion for extension of time to plead, Gartner attorneys Frederick Gold, Andrew Zeitlin and Diane Polletta explain they need additional time to respond to "undertake appropriate factual and legal analysis" and prepare an appropriate response. Netscout attorneys Michael Blanchard and Jason Frank did not object, as long as their client received a reciprocal extension.
NetScout, a Westford, Mass.-based computer performance management provider, filed the lawsuit in August over allegations of "corporate defamation" arising out of the business research practices of Stamford-based Gartner.
NetScout doesn't like being called a "challenger" rather than "leader" in one of Gartner's Magic Quadrant (MQ) industry reports — especially because it thinks its ranking is based, in part, by its unwillingness to "pay to play."
The lawsuit has reignited long-standing industry discussion over the merits of Gartner's MQ reports.
In an interview with CMSWire, Tony Byrne, founder of Washington, D.C.-based Real Story Group — a company intended to expose the weaknesses and strengths of web and enterprise technology products — said at least some of Netscout's points may be valid.
"It's quite possible that Netscout would have gotten a better placement if it were a customer. As a vendor, you pay extra for the right to brag about (and distribute) an MQ, so Gartner has a financial incentive to put long-time subscribers in the upper right," he explained. "Typically this biases MQs towards larger vendors, including those past their prime. The case of Netscout is one of those rare instances where a more established vendor got dinged, which of course only heightens concerns about the fact that Netscout wouldn't pay for Gartner consulting."
Of course, there is another, simpler explanation, Byrne added. Maybe Netscout just annoyed the Gartner analyst team in some way.
"Analysts are human. We all try to separate the emotional side, but sometimes a 'difficult' vendor can be a sign of a deeper problems," he said.
But Byrne said the opposite — the notion that "friendly" vendors get a better rating because they are good at analyst relations, not because they are good at satisfying their customers — is even more disturbing.
Serious Conflicts of Interest
Byrne made two other critical points.
- The fact-check process can be difficult for both parties. It's possible Gartner ignored some factual issues, but much of what Netscout raises in the lawsuit are questions of interpretation. Netscout seems aggrieved that Gartner is not buying into marketing pitches. "To be fair, it does appear that Gartner was swayed by the marketing pitches of the other vendors (who were clients). In any case, it will be very difficult to prove defamation here," Bryne continued.
- As long as analyst firms make money by selling reprints and bragging rights to vendors for a fee, there will always be serious conflicts of interest. "An individual analyst will have integrity (and nearly all of them do), but the system is corrupt, since vendors know they have to pay to play the game," he added.