Virtual Trade Show: VARs Can Help Clients Centralize Data And Move To Cloud


That's the conclusion of a panel of storage vendors and a solution provider who Thursday discussed trends related to protecting data at rest on the Everything Channel Virtual Trade show.

Customers are starting to centralize their storage in order to better manage the protection and archiving of their data, said Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at International Computerware, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider.

"Customers are moving data to the data center where they can lock it down," Shepard said.

The adoption of software-as-a-service and the gradual understanding of the benefits of computing clouds will accelerate the centralization of data, especially to storage clouds, Shepard said.

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"With the cloud, everything is built as a service," he said. "When you are talking about security as a service, it's easy to bring data back (to a cloud) and lock it down."

Both Shepard and the manufacturers on the panel agreed that cloud computing is going to have a major impact on data protection. However, there was some friendly disagreement about whether the impact will be felt more in public or private clouds.

Bob Roudebush, director of solutions engineering at data protection software vendor Double-Take said that data loss prevention is a major driver for getting customers to move to public clouds. Cloud computing provider Amazon, for example, is spending more than just about everyone but Microsoft and EMC on protecting data in the cloud, he said.

Shepard said he does not agree that public clouds are the best way to protect customer data. "I prefer to help customers build private clouds to protect their data," he said.

Roudebush said that smaller companies will actually find it easier to move to a public cloud. However, in either case, "they need to be able to protect the data in the cloud," he said.

Customer interest in storing data in compute clouds is high, Shepard said. "They don't trust (cloud computing) yet," he said. "But they're eager to move to the cloud."

Ken Grohe, vice president of Americas partner sales at EMC, said that too much of a company's IT budget is spent on purchasing and maintaining IT products, and not enough on their core business, but that moving data to a cloud could help reverse that trend.

"Private clouds work because they give people more money to invest in their applications and processes," Grohe said.

Roudebush said he is naive enough to think customers will soon embrace and trust the cloud, and that they will have access to the technology needed to protect their data.

The move to the cloud could happen faster than most people think thanks to the nascent economic recovery which will result in customers considering new business models, Roudebush said. "Will they still be building new data centers with raised floors?" he said.

Regardless of where data is stored, it is up to solution providers to be proactive in making sure it is protected, panelists said.

Shepard estimated that nine-and-a-half of every ten customer inquiries about data protection come after a customer has a problem, which suggests that solution providers still have plenty of opportunities to reach out to customers.

"We had to install a 'Bat Phone' at our office for customers to call after problems," he said.

Manufacturers can't do the data protection job by themselves, said Grohe at EMC. "Sometimes the manufacturer like EMC has a great solution," he said. "But you gotta have the VARs to fill in the holes."

That is especially true when customers show their own preferences for data protection technology, Grohe said.

"It's important for a manufacturer to provide a complete solution," he said. "But we recognize that our customers have their own preferences, so we need to also have modular offerings that work with other solutions. We need to make it possible for our VARs to do both."

The need for solution providers to understand a customers' business requirements and policies are not going away, said Mike DiMeglio, product marketing manager at FalconStor.

"It's important for someone to be looking at the customer's infrastructure, at how they are protecting their data, and bring in the right solution," DiMeglio said.