Whenever I need to come up to speed on a new technology quickly (and is there any other speed for that today?), I hunt down some white papers to get me started. Of course, white papers can be slanted toward a particular technology or vendor, but often I find they contain much more truth than fiction. They are also just technically dense enough to give one the gist of a topic.
Whether for software or hardware, well-written white papers not only extol the benefits of the associated technology, they also can purvey the status of that technology's market, pointing out why someone should adopt a particular technology and what problems it can solve.
White papers don't end at the technology threshold. Many highlight the benefits associated with a sales process or an associated channel program. Solution providers can use them to build a sales mechanism around a particular technology, while educating themselves on the benefits of a particular vendor's channel program.
To help separate the buildup from the lowdown when reading white papers, here are a few strategies to consider:
Always consider the source. Having at least a slight grasp on the strengths and weaknesses of a company and its offerings will prevent you from being unfairly steered away from important issues and/or placing too much emphasis on the unimportant.
White papers are like potato chips--one is not enough. Like a good diet, your opinion will only be balanced if fed from a variety of sources--hopefully some will be in competition with one another. Consider also reading about alternative technologies to come to grips with the market.
Try to locate white papers from standards organizations and other third parties before resorting to vendor sources. True, technology-alliance members have an agenda, but it's hard for any one of them to completely steer the white paper to their advantage. In a similar vein, read white papers from the different alliances that form around a given technology, especially if they are competitive.
Look for white papers that focus on all aspects of a particular technology segment. Always remember the sales angle when extrapolating the needed technical information.
Don't waste time searching around for white papers. That cuts into your research time and scope. The CRN Test Center features an enormous but select library of white papers at techlibrary.crn.com, covering subjects specifically tailored to the needs of the solution provider community to keep you productive and up to speed.
What new technologies are you considering? Let me know via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.