Storage As A Service Gets Vendor Backup

A new wave of vendors is about to make a splash on the data backup market. Well-known storage players—including EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Iomega, Seagate and Symantec—will push backup as a service to a customer base that until now has been served by a handful of specialty providers, other small, unknown providers, or MSPs that added backup to their list of offerings.

Solution providers say the entry of the larger vendors in the space helps customers more easily accept the concept of storage as a service.

Pat Edwards, vice president of sales at Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based solution provider and Symantec partner that never offered backup as a service, said that a move by large vendors like Symantec into this market will add the kind of brand recognition that will get customers' and solution providers' attention.

"I'm liking that," Edwards said. "I've seen smaller companies doing this, but I've been afraid to work with them. Online backup services are not new. But somebody with a name like Symantec brings validity to the offering. With all the big guys getting into the game, I suspect it will be here for a while."

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That is the plan for the name-brand vendors that are just now starting to see the potential for backup as a service.

Symantec, which this month unveiled plans to eventually move all of its software into a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, is making its start with its Symantec Protection Network, aimed at providing small and midsize businesses with low-cost online data backup and recovery.

Jeff Hausman, senior director of product management for the Cupertino, Calif.-based storage and security software giant, said Symantec will focus its SaaS offerings on the channel, while also making them available direct to customers.

The Symantec Protection Network relies on a number of redundant data centers Symantec has set up for customers to use for online backups. The data is compressed and encrypted as it is backed up, with the encryption phrase managed by the customer or a third-party escrow service to ensure customers that no one at Symantec can access their data.

Symantec also plans to provide a hybrid offering in which the next version of its Backup Exec data protection application will include the capability to send a copy of backup data to Symantec's data centers at the same time it is sent to customers' normal backup targets, Hausman said.

The new Symantec service is now available as a beta, with final availability and pricing to be determined. Pricing will be a monthly fee based on the amount of data protected, Hausman added.

Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based solution provider, said he is excited by the prospect of Symantec moving to SaaS with its offerings. "Symantec is in a position to help change the way software is delivered," Teter said. "That is innovation."

Advanced Systems Group sells a lot of Symantec software but currently has no SaaS offerings, a situation that Teter said could change. "Symantec could legitimize SaaS in the channel," he said.

HP has also been active in providing storage as a service on two fronts. The company provides a backup and recovery solution service based on a variety of software from HP, Symantec and EMC direct to customers via its professional services arm. Solution providers can also resell but not install HP's electronic vaulting and data replication solution services, said Steve Hort, global marketing manager for StorageWorks services.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP six months ago started providing online backup and recovery services to small businesses, with prices ranging from $918 per year for 5 Gbytes of backup capacity and seven-day history to $64,200 per year for 500 Gbytes with a 30-day history, said Harry Baeverstad, director of HP StorageWorks SMB business.

That service is aimed at customers with industry-standard servers but is not tied to customers using HP products, Baeverstad said. Solution providers can resell it as a CarePaq packaged service.

Next: More new storage-as-a-service players

Another new entrant into this market is Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Seagate, the hard-drive manufacturer that jumped in feet-first with its January acquisition of EVault, a 10-year-old provider of managed storage services.

Richard Heitmann, vice president of product management at EVault, said Seagate acquired the company as a way to leverage its brand-name recognition to move into complementary businesses.

EVault offers its managed storage direct and through channel partners in three different flavors. Customers can sign up with solution providers to have their backups done online to EVault data centers on a per-Gbyte, per-month basis. They can also license EVault software to do managed backups using their own data center infrastructure. Or they can pay EVault a fee to manage their backups remotely.

Solution providers can resell the EVault software or its services, or can bundle EVault services with their own managed services offerings, Heitmann said.

Lee Bird, president of Btech, a Pasadena, Calif.-based provider of managed security services that has provided EVault's services to its customers for years, said he's interested in leveraging the bigger vendor's brand. "Not a lot of people know the EVault name, but Seagate is one of the top brand names."

The thing Bird likes best about the EVault service is that it is compliant with the SAS 70 auditing standard. "My third sentence with my client is, 'EVault is SAS 70-compliant,' " he said. "Their faces just light up."

Another company moving into this space is Iomega, the small-business storage hardware vendor that last year purchased a San Diego-based managed services provider, CSCI, and unveiled plans to use its worldwide solution provider base to bring managed services to small-business customers.

Tom Kampfer, president and COO of Iomega, San Diego, said the company is actively working on getting its managed services ramped up for the channel, and is already signing up solution providers. "We expect to see storage as a service this year," Kampfer said. "It's very, very actively being worked on. It's a no-brainer and a logical extension for Iomega."

EMC is also planning to enter the online backup space, but details of its plans are not yet available. At the vendor's quarterly financial call this month, Joseph Tucci, chairman, president and CEO of the Hopkinton, Mass.-based company, said EMC expects to launch a SaaS and storage-as-a-service offering soon.

Brian Reagan, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Arsenal Digital, a Cary, N.C.-based provider of online backup services that has had partnerships with telcos, managed service providers and hosted service providers for years, said his company welcomes the new competitors to this space.

"We view this as positive, not only for the industry, but for users," Reagan said. "We feel the traditional hardware/software model for data protection is not the best approach for all users."