BY LISA COLEMAN
Of the new storage service providers (SSPs) that have been appearing almost weekly, only five or six "pure play" SSPs will still be standing next year, predicts Doug Chandler, program manager for storage services at International Data Corp.
Nevertheless, activity on the SSP front isn't slowing down. Analysts are bullish on the storage service model, but SSPs may not be alone in the field. Storage management, backup and recovery, and on-demand storage may be provided as bundled services by Internet data centers (IDCs), telecommunications companies, and storage suppliers.
The latest trend is partnerships between IDCs and SSPs, which offer storage management expertise that may be lacking at the data-center companies. Traditionally, data centers have suffered from a reputation as only "real estate" with appropriate HVAC, power, on-site security, and fire suppression around the storage and Web hosting equipment. But many IDCs say it's an outdated label. IDCs are now much more than facilities packed with big storage boxes. They do offer managed storage services through SSPs, data security through partnerships and highly qualified hacking-prevention staff, and enhanced customer service.
"The reality is, in most cases, a large percentage of SSP business is being driven through IDCs. If you go to many of the SSPs, almost by default you have to go to an IDC," explains Chandler. Because SSPs do not own data centers, they tend to be dependent on IDC facilities for remote delivery of storage capacity.
For example, Internet hosting provider Exodus Communications has partnerships with several SSPs, including Storage-Networks, StorageWay, Sanrise, Scale Eight, and WorldStor. "Each [SSP] tends to have a specialty and leadership in its own space," says Bruce Talley, vice president of services marketing at Exodus. "We've been working with these folks for the last 18 months as the market has exploded for on-demand storage and tape backup. There are probably 30 or more SSPs, and we've picked the best of the best as partners."
Internet data centers (IDCs), Web-hosting firms, and telecommunications companies will become more serious competitors in the storage utility market in the near future.
Exodus has 42 data centers worldwide for its 4,500 customers. "I don't think it's realistic to think that one SSP will meet the needs of every customer," says Talley. With several SSPs to choose from, Exodus can choose from a variety of SSP services for its customers. "Every company has some type of legacy environment that needs to be integrated, even if it's a large enterprise that's building a new e-business initiative. It still has to be integrated with their back-end systems somehow," says Brian Schwarz, Exodus' services marketing manager.
Other IDCs are not offering several SSPs on their managed services menu. For example, Denver, CO-based Inflow chose StorageTek spin-off ManagedStorage International (MSI) to offer storage services to its customers. Inflow isn't using other SSPs. "If you look at the vast majority of SSPs, there are literally dozens being started up with people who have marginal industry experience. Those SSPs don't have the critical mass in terms of numbers of storage engineers," says Art Zeile, CEO of Inflow.
Working with MSI, Inflow offers primary disk backup and tape archival and restoration service. For disk backup, the company uses EMC RAID arrays. For tape archiving, Inflow uses StorageTek tape libraries, which customers can access either over an IP network or via Fibre Channel. For each of its 18 data centers, the storage technology is identical. "In every data center we're deploying the same physical and logical architecture so that we can provide the same level of service across all facilities," explains Dag Peak, director of strategic development at Inflow.
Many companies go to an IDC for services such as Website hosting, which entails not only storage but also network connectivity, Internet access, firewalls, and security. If a company is looking for outsourcing storage or having its storage managed on-site, it often seeks out an SSP, says Inflow's Ziele.
Launched in January 2000, IDC newcomer Relera also chose a more conservative model for its storage offering. It opted for MSI because it received funding from EMC and StorageTek, and the company offered the storage expertise Relera wanted, according to John Pitek, vice president of marketing at Relera. "If we cover all the technologies and all the offerings in a reasonable manner, we really don't want to bring in five or six different storage providers," says Pitek.
Pitek believes his customers choose an IDC because they need storage, security, and services such as load balancing and caching for servers. Also, an IDC can build in more than one carrier for the backbone connection.
Using MSI, Relera offers server backup and restore, disk-on-demand services with storage area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) options sold in 27GB blocks.
This summer, Relera will offer managed server service for Compaq, Sun, Unix, and Windows-based server arrays. "It's easier for companies to put a toe in the water by outsourcing to an IDC than to jump in and move all their data over," says Pitek.