Storage outsourcing gets mixed reviews from IT suits Page 2


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Considering the options

Weighing the different outsourcing options may provide IT executives with some perspective on a nagging planning problem--how to mold an unruly band of disparate servers into a well managed, scalable storage infrastructure.

Like a lot of large, diversified companies, Sun Life Financial Services of Canada, which manages about $223 billion, has given business units carte blanche to buy storage on a least-cost basis. The end result consists of a 7TB combined collection of about 100 Windows NT and Novell file and print servers, and about 150 development servers. Storage growth for this distributed lot runs about 30 percent per year.

Working with executives at Sun Life's home office in Toronto. Laurence McKenzie, Sun Life's vice president of worldwide technology and strategy, has started to plan for consolidating the distributed servers into an a scalable enterprise storage infrastructure to be controlled by a central entity. He says, We need to have better data protection for backups and disaster recovery, as well as to cut the windows for these functions.

While McKenzie doesn't want to go into detail about Sun Life's plans, some of his research has focused on storage outsourcing. He says, StorageNetworks did a nice consulting job of helping us to understand our key problems. However, we aren't ready to put any storage off site. McKenzie has also looked at Storability. He says, These folks say they can leverage part of my installed base with a new storage offering. This mix would make my mature storage more reliable. For now, McKenzie says he prefers to keep his storage options open.

Where the data lives can go hand and hand with the application to become a critical component of the IT infrastructure. So, keeping the storage systems together with their Sybase and DB2 servers will stay the norm for Blue Cross Blue Shield in Chattanooga, Tenn. Hugh Hale, the director of technical services, may help IBM to evaluate new its new products and services, but he says he won't consider any storage outsourcing arrangements with IBM. He says, We have the staff to manage our database applications and storage better than anyone else. Outsourcing of any kind should be considered if you can't get the resources to do it yourself.

Storage outsourcing, regardless of its built-in comfort levels, may offer more firepower than even a Fortune 1,000 has data to burn or just may not mix well with the way an organization does business.

Each year Wendy's, the $5 billion a year fast-food chain, serves trillions of high calorie burgers, but its corporate data center manages a lean 550GB of storage. Ed Ohanian, director of enterprise technologies at Wendy's International Inc. in Dublin, Ohio, says, We don't have enough storage to warrant outsourcing any of it. It's hardly growing. I haven't bought any mainframe disks in 18 months.

R. R. Donnelley & Sons, the Fortune 1,000 commercial printing firm based in Chicago, Ill., maintains a symbiotic relationship with its publishers, including Harvard Business Review. In fact, 90%of R. R. Donnelley's business comes from the U.S. Each step of the prepress workflow process at a R. R. Donnelley plant consists of having data readily available from on-site, high-performance storage repositories. Kirk Brauch, a corporate technology consultant, says, When we go to put ink on paper, time is at the essence. Taking the storage outside of a plant's control would put us in a bad position. How would we meet a publisher's requirement if something goes wrong? We'd be dead in the water.


Providers aren't deterred

The reluctance of large organizations to embrace storage outsourcing hasn't deterred storage system integrators like Integrated Archive Systems, of Palo Alto, Calif., from expanding beyond delivering equipment and installing it. For the past six years, Integrated Archives has done work for a mix of Fortune 1,000 companies, such as Sybase Inc., and dot-coms, such as Yahoo Inc. Amy Rao, Integrated Archives' founder and president, says that later this year her firm plans to start managing storage area networks that customers plan to build. She says, We'll be offering both hands-on services and remote monitoring services from data servers where we'll collocate our servers. //

Elizabeth M. Ferrarini is a freelance author based in Arlington, Mass.

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