By Dave Simpson and Heidi Biggar
New storage service providers (SSPs) are popping up on almost a weekly basis. Although the market for SSPs, also known as storage outsourcers or storage utilities, is still unproven, industry analysts are predicting huge growth. For example, International Data Corp., in Framingham, MA, expects the SSP market to explode from $11 million last year to $682 million next year. The market is expected to top $8.8 billion in 2004.
Three of the more recent SSP entrants include ManagedStorage International, AT&T, and NaviSite. The total number of players is now in the dozens. As such, the main problem - for both SSPs and potential customers - is differentiation.
ManagedStorage International plans to differentiate itself on a number of fronts, including price and its tight partnerships with Internet data centers (IDCs). Unlike pioneer and current market leader StorageNetworks Inc. (SNI), which took the capital-intensive approach of building its own data centers, ManagedStorage is partnering with IDCs such as Global Center and Level3. However, ManagedStorage will also provide storage services at customers' sites.
"We provide storage services both as a public storage utility hosted in IDCs, and also as a private storage utility hosted either at a customer's location or at an IDC," explains Bill Johnson, CTO and COO at ManagedStorage.
ManagedStorage offers four services, all based on service level agreements (SLAs):
- Storage-on-demand, which provides primary storage on a per-GB pricing basis, as well as services such as remote mirroring.
- Server backup utility (including recovery services).
- PC backup utility (including recovery services).
- Content management, which is targeted at applications such as digital video, medical imaging, financial, etc. This service is priced on a per-image basis.
For its primary storage services, prices range from $25 to $40 per GB per month, depending on the level of services. "We expect to be among the lowest price points for basic storage services," Johnson claims.
ManagedStorage spun out of various services projects at Storage Technology Corp. The company inherited intellectual capital, an existing customer base and employees from StorageTek. ManagedStorage's head count has increased from 70 employees since its launch in April to more than 200 employees today.
AT&T jumps in
In a sign that industry heavyweights are taking notice of the potential for storage services, AT&T stepped into the storage outsourcing ring this month with the announcement of AT&T Ultravailable Data - an extension of its five-year-old, billion-dollar Solutions business. AT&T Solutions is the networking and professional services arm of AT&T.
"AT&T Solutions began by solving clients' WAN and LAN challenges," says Paul Digiacomo, AT&T Ultravailable service director. "It's now expanding into what the network touches; specifically, desktop, server, application, and now data storage management."
Services range from initial assessment to design, implementation, and ongoing management, and are jointly performed by EMC and AT&T. The two companies are targeting multi-national, financial, e-business, and large transaction-processing firms requiring near-100% data availability.
By leveraging key technologies and services from EMC, as well as AT&T's own networking capabilities, Internet data centers, and interoperability labs, AT&T Solutions can provide a level of data management that's unmatched in the industry, Digiacomo claims.
"We've created a service that provides both on-site end-to-end data management and off-site synchronous data mirroring," says Digiacomo. Synchronous data mirroring allows users to create and store a second copy of data at a secure off-site location.
AT&T maintains 250 points of presence, or conditioned facilities, across the globe. The Ultravailable interoperability lab is located in New Jersey.
Ultravailable services can be purchased on a straight consumption basis, but are typically part of a larger AT&T professional services package. Pricing depends on the type of service purchased (monitoring, management, etc.). The equipment needed to implement the solution can be bought outright, leased, or billed according to monthly usage.
NaviSite expands services
Also this month, managed application host provider NaviSite broadened its Managed Storage Solutions to include a storage area network (SAN) service based on technologies from Compaq and EMC.
"It's the first time we've offered a service based on high-end storage subsystems," says Pierre Bouchard, NaviSite's director of product marketing. "We are recognizing that more and more of our [Web-based] customers are working with increasing amounts of data that go beyond [traditional] storage devices." The new systems support storage capacities of 200GB to 4.5TB.
Bouchard says the ability to design, implement, manage, and monitor dedicated SANs will continue to differentiate its services from co-location providers, such as Exodus, and, in particular, traditional storage outsourcers.
"While some companies are focusing entirely on management of the storage subsystem, we feel that the storage subsystem is so integral to the Web site that they need to be tied together, coordinated, and managed," explains Bouchard.
NaviSite provides co-location, hosting, application, and management services to Web-centric businesses. It maintains four data centers; its Andover, MA, headquarters features a 53,000-square-foot raised computer floor.
NaviSite's SAN service debuted this month. Storage-on-demand and flash storage capabilities will be added later this year. The services will be priced on a per-GB-per-month basis.