A Farewell To Storage

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Companies considering using managed-storage services must prepare for a major

shift in the way storage management is handled-and be willing to give up some

of the control.


For years, the IT department of multinational polymer fabrication company

Reichhold did its best to manage the entire IT infrastructure for its worldwide

company with internal staff. But about 10 years ago, faced with quickly

spiraling data management needs, the company decided to outsource much of its IT

management to EDS, an outsourcer based in Plano, TX.

At the time, Reichhold chose to retain internal management of its storage

infrastructure, spearheaded by the IT department stationed at the company's

Research Triangle Park, N.C. headquarters. But with operations in several

countries in North America, South America, Europe, and the Middle East, it soon

became apparent that managing all of the company's fast-growing storage

requirements internally simply wasn't efficient any longer.

Because EDS already managed part of Reichhold's IT infrastructure, the

company again turned to EDS to manage part of its storage infrastructure. Today,

EDS hosts and manages all data connected to the company's SAP Enterprise

Resource Planning (ERP) system, which houses manufacturing, personnel, financial

and other data, from EDS' data center in Sacramento, Calif.


Some of the reasons multinational corporations like Reichhold are considering

turning to a third party to manage storage are similar to those of smaller, more

centrally located companies-fast-growing storage, increasingly complex

compliance issues, security concerns, and insurance against business continuity

and disaster recovery scenarios. But in the case of multinational corporations,

these issues are often more complex, making the case for moving to a

managed-storage services paradigm perhaps even more compelling.

“Multinational corporations have all distributed computing infrastructures,

and that generally presents a lot of issues, like providing consistent service

levels to the different constituencies within your dispersed organization and

dealing with technology biases,” says Tim Thompson, program manager, Global

Offering Management, IBM Global Services, a managed-storage service provider

based in White Plains, NY.

“Other drivers include escalating costs and increasing storage complexity,

which can impact an organization's focus on its core mission,” says Dave

Uhlir, senior director, Management Services, Sun Microsystems, Santa Clara,

Calif. “Trying to plan their business relative to their storage needs is

becoming an increasing challenge, so it's sometimes easier to outsource it to

a company that can monitor it and provision it as needed. That way they don't

have to worry about predicting data volumes,” he adds.


There are also many ways in which multinational corporations can use

managed-storage service providers. In the case of Reichhold, EDS hosts the

company's data on its own servers, at its own data center. Some companies

choose to use managed-storage service providers in another way-by having

third-party personnel present at companies' own facilities, wherever they may

be located in the world, to provide a variety of storage-related services.

The services these providers offer within each of these two paradigms span a

large range. Depending on the service provider and the customer's needs, these

services can include real-time monitoring and management of an entire storage

infrastructure via a remote connection, backup and restore services, e-mail

archiving, data replication or any combination of these offerings. In addition,

most managed-storage service providers offer comprehensive usage and trending

reports and data-lifecycle information.

Full Speed Ahead

With such broad storage-management options and compelling issues, one thing

is clear-the concept of offloading some or all storage management to a third

party is gaining steam, slowly but surely, among multinational corporations.


Consistency and standardization around storage are compelling reasons for

multinational corporations to consider outsourcing storage management. Using a

managed-storage service provider helps customers ensure technology, service and

reporting consistencies, allowing dispersed organizations to gain a global view

of their storage environment.

And for companies that operate in many countries, consistency has also become

more important, thanks to new data consistency standards being implemented in

countries around the world. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)

standard, for instance, is an approach to IT-service management based on best

practices collected in the UK It is currently required in the UK and Australia,

and the European community is also moving toward the adoption and certification

of the standard.

Requirements for ITIL compatibility in some countries,Â

but not others, increases the complexity of the storage paradigm,

however, service providers can ensure that the company is compliant across the

board, satisfying all requirements. Another example, is the Statement on

Auditing Standards (SAS) 70, a U.S. auditing standard that governs controls over

information technology and related issues. A global company can be sure that the

data the service provider is handling is secure and meets the requirement, when

a managed-storage service provider is SAS 70 certified.


Compliance with a growing number of regulations, both national and

international, is an important, related issue that is prompting some

multinational companies to outsource storage management. “Compliance has a big

impact on what you store, how you store it, how long you keep it and who has

access to it, and when you're a multinational company, you have to think in

terms of the individual geography and not just one set of requirements,” says

Adam Couture, Analyst, Gartner, an IT consultancy, Stamford, Conn.

Issues around security also can lead multinational corporations to consider

managed-storage services. Multinational corporations tend to have more data

traveling over wide-area networks, with more people in more locations accessing

the data. That can cause concern about who has rights and access to specific

information, which leads to concern about what data is encrypted, how it's

encrypted and who manages the encryption keys. Companies certainly can encrypt

the data themselves, but managed-storage providers offering remote backup

services have the ability to automatically encrypt data as it is moves to the

storage environment, removing yet another burden from the customer.


the Action Is

To ensure fast response time to

storage-related emergencies, it's critical for managed-storage service

providers to maintain a presence in the countries where their

multinational customers have storage infrastructure. In many cases, that

means maintaining not only a 24x7 helpdesk, but 24x7 dispatchable

technical personnel.

"They expect you to

be agile with them as they are merging, consolidating and performing other

activities unique to multinational corporations," says Tim Bowers,

storage product manager, EDS. "That means if they have a presence in

a particular city, for the most part, so do you."

"Although it's

impossible for any managed-storage service provider to have a physical

presence in every location in which a customer might need data, if the

deal is big enough, a company should make sure that personnel are located

close enough to be able to respond in an appropriate time frame,"

says Dave Uhlir, senior director, Management Services, Sun Microsystems.

That's definitely true

in cases where storage-delivery strategy essentially takes over managing a

client's existing storage infrastructure, but the situation isn't as

clear-cut when the offering involves centrally managed storage-an

offering that involves moving more of the storage management to a

centrally located facility run by the managed-storage service

provider," notes Mary Ellen Dowd, ITS Global Offering manager for

managed-storage services, IBM Global Services.

"The skills and

presence you need in each country is very dependent on what your delivery

strategy and architecture is," she says. "If a local service

provider's team takes over management of what a company already has in

Germany, for example, that demands a much broader global presence in terms

of the types of skills you have in each country where you are deployed.

But with a centrally managed-services offering, such as one in which managed-storage service provider> remotely manages, monitors and reports

on storage across the globe, the majority of the work is done from one

delivery site."

The centrally managed

storage paradigm, however, doesn't mean that the managed-storage service

provider shouldn't maintain some presence in the country. "If a

box is sitting in a country, you have to have a mature support

infrastructure in place in case that box goes down," says Dowd.

- Karen D Schwartz


That's the reason why companies like P&G have enlisted the help of

managed-storage service providers-in this case, HP-to handle their IT

infrastructure. In the case of P&G, HP manages the IT infrastructure for

business processes occurring in many different countries spanning different

continents. If a disaster should take out any of the data centers HP manages for

P&G, the company is protected because of failover capabilities built into

the managed-services infrastructure.

“Business continuity and disaster recovery were the primary factors that

tipped the scales in favor of outsourcing Reichhold's SAP-based storage, notes

Christophe Petit,” global IT manager, Reichhold, Dijon, France. “What really

drove the decision was a big storm that occurred in North Carolina some years

ago, where we were running out of power and in a situation where our entire

company could go down because our corporate headquarters wasn't capable of

providing the power to supply our SAP servers, which houses critical data,” he

says. “That factor, combined with other needs like the amount of data we had

to keep track of and store, led us to the decision of finding a partner that

would be able to provide support and services at any time, in a location that

was safe.”

Not a Slam-dunk

Although there are many compelling reasons for outsourcing, all or part of a

multinational corporation's storage infrastructure, there can be mitigating



Companies considering the managed-storage services approach have to be

prepared for a major shift in the way storage management is handled -and be

willing to give up some of the control.

“The bigger the company, the more organizational silos there are with

infrastructure both on the server and storage side that tend to be segmented,

and that can be a big integration challenge,” says Sun's Uhlir. “It may

take a fairly major infrastructure remodeling, particularly if you're looking

at an organizational change where the storage infrastructure will cover only

several lines of business instead of the single line of business it used to


Another downside of outsourcing any part of the IT paradigm is loss of

control, because the outsourcer generally makes technology decisions on the

company's behalf. Managed-service providers tend to standardize on one set of

tools and technology because doing so keeps costs down, and service providers

are already proficient in using that set. Standardizing on tools, however, can

stifle innovation, although it can be a reasonable trade-off.

“You may have other technologies from other vendors that may give you more

of a competitive edge. But, because the outsourcer has standardized on tools and

technologies, you may not have access to them or you will pay a premium for

having the outsourcer implement them. It's about weighing your priorities,”

says Gartner's Couture.

At Reichhold today, the IT team has shrunk significantly due to the change in

storage management, but Petit believes the trade-off has been well worth it.

“Our IT department's role in storage is changed because we don't need as

many resources to manage our storage capacity, but the system is now much more

flexible and faster,” he says. “Every month we tell EDS to add a certain

amount of storage capacity to keep our servers running correctly, and it's

done very quickly. If it was done internally, we would have to place a purchase

order to buy it and take our system down during a weekend to add the storage.

This way, I can give my approval within five or ten minutes by e-mail, and I

know that within six or seven hours our servers will get increased capacity.”

Cost is another factor. Although offloading storage management may seem like

a money-saver, that's not always the case. Turning to managed-storage services

can certainly allow a multinational corporation to reduce its IT staff, thereby

saving money, but the service itself doesn't come cheap. In the end, it's

often a wash. That's the case at Reichhold, although Petit says the decision

was never about cost reduction.

Choosing Your Managed-storage Service Provider

If going the managed-storage services route seems to make sense, the first

decision is what to outsource. Should you outsource everything related to

storage or should you pick and choose?

In general, most companies would benefit from offloading backup, recovery,

archiving and replication, opine experts. But beyond that, many companies choose

to be more selective. Some companies may choose to outsource only these

functions, while others may prefer a more comprehensive approach. “The route a

company goes really depends on which functions are considered core and which

aren't,” says Couture.

The next decision-which managed-storage service provider to choose -often

falls to someone fairly high up in the organization, such as a business unit

CIO. Companies providing managed-storage services fall into several categories,

making the executive's decision complicated. In addition to pure outsourcers,

such as IBM and EDS, there are a host of other vendors that offer both managed

and hosted storage services. Prominent examples include Arsenal Digital

Solutions, based in Cary, N.C.; Unisys, based in Blue Bell, Penn.; Iron

Mountain, based in Boston, Mass. and GlassHouse Technologies, based in

Framingham, Mass.

Another category of suppliers known as managed hosting providers is working

hard to make inroads in this space. One example is Verizon Information

Technologies, based in Tampa, Fla., a company eager to use its network

infrastructure to gain market share in the areas of both managed storage and

hosted storage. Verizon Information Technologies, which gained its technology,

worldwide reach and expertise through a verger of the former MCI and Verizon,

has offered Web hosting for years, but recently, introduced storage services.

“We want to start expanding and owning the edge,” says John Tomljanovic,

director, IT Solutions Product Management. “We can manage the customer's SAN

(Storage Area Network) devices and the entire storage infrastructure. And if you

don't want to do it yourself, we will host it from our data center and manage

it that way.”

Although the growth of managed-storage services in the multinational world is

slow, it's steady and in many cases, can make a great deal of sense, depending

on the company's internal culture, requirements and expected growth.

“These service providers are better equipped to manage large amounts of

data very efficiently. They have trained people, tools and processes down pat.

So unless you've got a world-class organization, chances are that they will be

able to do it more efficiently than you can,” says Gartner's Couture.

By Karen D. Schwartz in Maryland,


Republished with permission from Global Services