Analysis: Savvis Symphony VPDC Looks Good Despite Questions


Cloud provider Savvis is near the end of a significant transition, as it has tried to move away from a customer set that bought wholesale Web hosting and toward big-pocketed corporate enterprise customers.

To spruce up its cloud product offerings, the company has built a new hosted solution, given it a catchy name, and believes it is well-positioned to grow the portion of its business with customers that spend $50,000 a month.

With that, the CRN Test Center decided to take a look at its recently announced Savvis Symphony offering to see if it lived up to the marketing. We couldn’t get the look we wanted as Savvis hasn’t made evaluation accounts of Symphony available yet, but we did examine an online “sandbox” designed to mimic a real account.

From what we saw, Savvis Symphony’s VPDC is one very attractive solution with an interface that is so elegant that it should embarrass Amazon.com’s Elastic Compute Cloud unit. Savvis Symphony is far and away one of the most straightforward, navigable hosted data center solutions we’ve seen -- which is a big deal for a great swath of businesses that are on the fence now about how much if anything to invest in cloud solutions.

The Symphony VPDC console provides a dashboard that allows creation of a new virtual private data center that is either “Balanced” or “Essential.” A Balanced plan provides what Savvis says is a server with a CPU equivalent of an Intel 3.0 GHz processor, and writes on “T-2 RAID 10, migrated to RAID 5 and then migrated to RAID 6 on T-3.” Access is on block-based SAN and “Dual Path Redundant SAN with path failover and hot spare drives.” It guarantees “100 Mbps min” of transfer speed.

An Essential plan is less robust, with the same processing capability no minimum bandwidth floor, writes on T-3 RAID 10 migrated to RAID 6, and the same redundancy.

Creating and customizing virtual data centers on Savvis Symphony looks to be a snap. VARs or administrators have up to three different tiers of servers on the Balanced Plan, or a single tier on Essential, and a choice between RH 5.x 32-bit or RH 5 64-bit, or Windows Server 2008, 64-bit. Building tiers of servers is drag-and-drop simple. (Although we had difficulty installing a perimeter firewall in the sandbox version of the “Essential” solution.)

Behind the solution, here’s the deal about Savvis:
The company is losing money, its revenue has been declining and it’s deep in debt. Just this week, the company announced it would sell $625 million in bonds to pay off previous debts. While it just launched a Data Center expansion in northern New Jersey -- to take advantage of a broad customer base in New York City’s financial market -- Savvis is far less geographically dispersed than Amazon.com with its data centers. That provides a potentially greater risk.

However, company executives have said they believe their revenue will now stabilize and Savvis is in a good position to begin growing again, and its capital expenses should decline significantly following its data center buildouts. (Although, with major CPU launches by Intel on the roadmap, Savvis and all of its competitors will be under near-constant pressure to continually upgrade infrastructure to remain competitive.)

We want to get a real-world look at Savvis Symphony to examine its performance and reliability, and we’d also like to see its pricing menu for Savvis Symphony VPDC (which is currently not available.) Its clear that if Savvis Symphony delivers the performance it advertises, competitive pricing could drive it to become a major success. There are many questions still outstanding, but an initial look at Savvis Symphony shows it could be a solid competitor in what is becoming one of the most competitive areas of IT.