Storage outsourcing gets mixed reviews from IT suits


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Storage has blossomed into a plethora of storage-only outsourcing services beyond the traditional off-site vault for backups. These services range from backup variations--desktop-only, server, and real- time replication--to on-demand virtual storage utilities. For example, StorageNetworks Inc., based in Waltham, Mass., has become the de facto resource for dot-coms looking for rented IT infrastructures--a line from their servers to an EMC temple--all in the same data center. This article discusses outsourcing services available today and how the business community is reacting to these offerings.

Dealing with excess storage
What should you do if you have an excess of storage capacity, as well as other resources? Jerry Lynch, director of operations at OCLC in Dublin, Ohio, says, why not outsource? OCLC, a not-for-profit, provides online indexing and reference services to about 30,000 libraries in 65 countries.

The data center has a total of 20TB scattered across three IBM S/39s, an IBM RS/6000, and a Tandem with S70000 processor and several Sun servers--an E10000 and an E4500. Although OCLC's storage is growing at 50 percent a year, Lynch says, We're looking to lease about 15,000 square feet of our data center to a startup. We're also looking at making storage space available to libraries. We have to make sure we stay within our not- for-profit status.

Tony Merolle, the senior data center manager at Symbol Technologies Inc., the $1 billion bar code system manufacturer based in Holtsville, N.Y., doesn't worry if the HP 3000 legacy system in the Bethpage, N.Y., data center has a heart attack. Hewlett-Packard Recovery Services Support's trauma team has rehearsed the disaster recovery drill----bring the backup tapes from Arcus Data Security's vault to the hot site at Valley Forge, Pa., and begin restoring about 110GB of data on an identical HP system. HP's dry runs have restored the production system in less than seven hours.

However, Merolle says that Symbol expects to beef up its storage infrastructure through some outsourcing arrangements. One plan calls for backing up the data center servers online to similar servers at a remote hot site--either owned by Symbol or maintained by a third party. Pay-as-you-go-storage also appeals to Symbol as a way to complement an 8TB EMC Symmetrix system. Merolle says, We're talking to vendors, such as HP, Dell, and EMC, about storage systems that can be configured with the amount of disk space we need at a particular time. We'd just pay for what we use.

On the other hand, outsourcing for a SAP application didn't show much promise. Merolle says that some of the IT executives have looked at Qwest Communications. He says, We require a response time of no more than 1.5 seconds per SAP transaction. I want to get it below a second. Qwest offered a six-second guarantee per transaction.

IT professionals, along with Wall Street, have definitely noticed storage outsourcing services. However, organizations with capital- intensive storage infrastructures, at least for now, plan to keep their precious data gems at home rather than in some electronic Tower of London. Glenn Jacobsen, a senior partner in the Trilliant Group,a Cincinnati, Ohio, vendor-neutral firm that helps organizations assess storage technologies says, We haven't seen any movement or desire from our Fortune 500 clients to outsource any storage operations to a StorageNetworks. John Webster, a storage analyst with Illuminata Inc., of Nashua, N.H., says that a lot of organizations, regardless of their size, don't want to give up total control of their data to a third-party wire miles away.

Some say yes, some say no

New outsourcing models

Some hardware vendors and startups plan to relieve an organization's concern about control, trust, security, and privacy of their data. A new storage outsourcing model leverages system integrator tasks of supplying equipment with on-site, managed, pay-as- you-go storage. Starting at $35 per GB per month, Compaq Computer Corp. will rent you its Private Storage Utility--a Fibre Channel- based, ESA 1200 storage system, scalable to 3.5TB--and the internetworking trimmings. (You provide the servers.) Compaq will administer the SAN remotely from a base in Colorado using tools from HighGround Systems Systems Inc. and Compaq. For a service-per-GB charge, Storability, a startup in Southborough, Mass., will help architect, configure, and acquire an on-site storage system and manage it remotely using tools from vendors such as HighGround Systems. Neither offering has access to any corporate data.

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