Will Software Save the SSPs?


While the idea of outsourcing assistance in storage management was intriguing to many end users, the idea of signing over control of their data assets to an outside provider was not.

Soon hosting companies and longtime outsourcers such as EDS picked up on the concept, offering storage management services as a part of an overall service offering. They found that end users who were already outsourcing other functions were much more likely to try these add-on services than go through the process of separating their data from their applications and network. This left a small market for SSPs who wanted only to host a client's data, not the applications, servers or networks. Though many SSPs have gone by the wayside, a select few have experienced a rebirth as enterprise storage software vendors.

As SSPs worked to build the infrastructure to outsource data storage, they had to first deal with the same challenges that enterprise clients deal with on a daily basis: Effectively scale capacity, measure and monitor infrastructure, and backing up all that data. They solved these problems by developing procedures, processes and best practices for managing storage. In addition, they built network operation centers full of experts whose primary job was to manage terabytes of disk space all over the world. In doing this, they gained a tremendous amount of intellectual capital and proprietary expertise in how to manage storage infrastructure. What to do with all of this knowledge, scripting and best practices? Turn it into packaged software and sell it. Three SSPs in particular , Storability, CreekPath and StorageNetworks , have proclaimed their future as storage software firms in this way.

"It is a logical evolution for our business," says Kirby Wadsworth, vice president of marketing at Storability. "We've taken the knowledge and processes we developed to run one of the largest storage infrastructures in the world and leveraged it to develop storage software."

Essentially, these tools will serve as dashboards from which storage administrators can monitor and command the entire infrastructure. They will also provide an interface to manage other applications such as backup and replication. These products are evolving much like framework products in the networking space. It may very well be in this space that storage and network management intersect. Software behemoths such as BMC, CA and Tivoli are developing similar products for the storage market, modeled after their existing network management frameworks.

As with network management technology, the solution provider will play a key role in helping clients evaluate vendors and adopt these new methodologies of storage management.

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