IBM hopes to homer with ‘Blue SOX’

By Heidi Biggar

IBM’s new “Blue SOX” service is designed to relieve organizations of some of the day-to-day burdens of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance by handing off data management/storage responsibilities of certain data types to IBM Global Services.

“Companies would love to outsource SOX issues, but they don’t trust most vendors for this type of service,” says Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) consulting firm. “There aren’t many vendors other than IBM that could pull this off.”

ESG says there has been a modest resurgence in outsourced managed services, in particular for e-mail management and archiving. While these types of services don’t absolve users from ultimate responsibility for compliance, ESG says outsourcing compliance preparation or specific applications such as e-mail can make sense, depending on the user environment.

IBM is betting that the need for this type of service will resonate among users as they continue to struggle to meet various regulatory requirements-and as data volumes increase.

“Users are getting tired of putting in point solutions for e-mail, SOX, etc.; they just want someone to do it for them,” says Al Stuart, chief strategist and business line executive for IBM’s data retention solutions.

Stuart says that, unlike the defunct storage service provider (SSP) model, the hosting services model works for compliance data because the data is not typically viewed as critical to organizations’ day-to-day operations. However, compliance-related data can have significant business implications for many organizations in the event it is irretrievable in a legal situation. IBM loosely refers to this type of data as “JIC” (“just in case”) data.

“A lot of data is being saved just in case someone needs it down the road,” says Stuart. As a result, many organizations think there is little value to this data and are okay about turning it over to third parties, according to Stuart.

Besides minimizing the number of applications a company has to implement on-site, Stuart says Blue SOX gets rid of other headaches, such as technology migration (i.e., migrating data to new technologies as old ones are retired) and dealing with exponential data growth.

The Blue SOX service leverages IBM’s Workplace for Business Controls and Reporting (WBCR) software. Data is transferred over an Internet connection (according to a schedule determined by the user) to any of IBM’s hosting facilities across the US and can be mirrored to a second site for disaster-recovery purposes. A management dashboard at the customer’s site provides visibility into the service, showing the current status of compliance efforts.

Initially, user data will be stored on server-resident disk. However, as demand for the service increases, IBM plans to introduce more back-end storage types, including WORM tape and optical devices. Blue SOX also features backup-and-restore services, as well as help-desk support.

This article was originally published on March 01, 2005