Plenty Of Public Cloud Storage Alternatives To Iron Mountain

The decision by Iron Mountain to close its public storage cloud offerings is a minor blip in the development of the cloud storage market which features a wide range of alternative vendors and technologies from which customers can choose.

Analyst firm Gartner recently said Iron Mountain planned to exit the public cloud storage business by ending its Virtual File Store cloud-based file service and its Archive Service Platform cloud archiving business.

Iron Mountain confirmed the Gartner report on its plans to exit those two services in an statement e-mailed to CRN. It also confirmed that its other cloud storage businesses, including LiveVault and Connected Backup, will remain available to customers.

Gartner also reported that Iron Mountain plans to transfer some of its Virtual File Store customers to a new service, called File System Archiving, in 2012. Iron Mountain told CRN that File System Archiving "is not an existing service."

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Iron Mountain declined to further comment on the news or its plans for migrating customers to other storage clouds.

Iron Mountain's Virtual File Store service, which started in early 2009, was an enterprise-class, cloud-based storage archiving service aimed at helping customers reduce the cost of storing and managing static data files. It provided secure, long-term storage of inactive data at off-site data centers to help cut the costs related to on-site storage infrastructures and support of regulatory and compliance initiatives.

The company later that year enhanced its Virtual File Store with its Archive Services Platform, which provided ISVs including CommVault with APIs to let their software directly interface with Iron Mountain's cloud storage offering.

Iron Mountain is continuing its LiveVault service, based on its 2005 acquisition of LiveVault, a provider of online backup and recovery services.

It is also continuing its Connected Backup for PC, a service which backs up and protects data from all of a customer's PCs.

Gartner, in its report, said that two other public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers, startup Vaultscape and EMC's Atmos Online, left this market in the past 12 months.

Vaultscape, which came to market in 2009 with a cloud-based alternative to tape for archiving data, lasted only about 1 year, Gartner said. Vaultscape could not be reached for comment.

EMC last Summer ended its Atmos cloud service, and said it would focus on providing Atmos could storage technology to such partners as AT&T. At the time, EMC said it had offered Atmos as a service to a limited number of customers to help in developing the platform.

However, there remain in the market plenty of alternatives to Iron Mountain, some of which are moving to help that company's customers find a place to store their online data.

The Gartner report cited two companies, San Diego-based Nirvanix and Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Zetta, as the only two surviving pure-play public cloud storage providers. However, others including Rackspace and the Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), also compete in this market.

Both Nirvanix and Zetta have responded to Iron Mountain's decision to exit the public cloud storage market with offers of free migration services for customers who move their data to those companies clouds, as well as free cloud storage service for the first 30 days.

Steve Zivanic, vice president of marketing at Nirvanix, said his company is storing over 1 billion data objects in seven data centers, and offers multi-tenancy options with metered billing. Nirvanix also offers customers a global name space feature so that customers with data in multiple data centers can update one copy of that data and have the changes automatically done to all copies.

NEXT: Helping Customers Migrate From Iron Mountain's Public Storage Services

Nirvanix is also making its software available to partners who can use a customer's hardware to build private storage clouds, Zivanic said.

Zivanic said it was a mistake for Iron Mountain to exit the public cloud storage business so quickly.

"That would be OK if this were a mature, stable market," he said. "But in a market that is growing and changing quickly, it was a mistake."

Iron Mountain, unfortunately, found it in a position where it was difficult to differentiate itself from the competition, Zivanic said.

"What did Iron Mountain bring to the table?" he said. "Amazon provides cheap cloud storage available to the masses. But for the enterprise, customers are coming to Nirvanix. We allow customers to specify where their data is stored, while Amazon doesn't. That's a requirement for enterprise customers who need to know where their data is stored. We also let customers provision their own data, and set up sub accounts and handle billing."

Jeff Bell, director of corporate marketing for Zetta, said his company can take care of Iron Mountain customers on both the backup and the archiving side with its storage cloud.

"This is a natural business for Zetta," Bell said. "We can provide the same features, but without the need for a local appliance. Iron Mountain required an appliance. With Zetta, it's a natural feature. And with Zetta's Mirror Backup, customers can install our agent free and easily suck their data out of Iron Mountain."

Zetta charges customers about 45 cents per GB per month, with prices falling as capacity increases, Bell said. He said Iron Mountain was charging customers as much as $2 per GB per month.

Zetta is still relatively small, with only two data centers and "hundreds" of customers, Bell said. "But we're growing," he said. "Our business is accelerating."

Iron Mountain's decision to exit the market was no surprise to Andres Rodriguez, founder and CEO of Nasuni, a Natick, Mass.-based developer of appliances that allow customers access public storage clouds from such providers as Amazon, AT&T, Nirvanix, Peer 1 Hosting, Rackspace, and Microsoft's Windows Azure.

Nasuni has already started migrating customers from Iron Mountain, which was also a public storage cloud partner of Nasuni's, to other cloud providers, Rodriguez said.

"We own the accounts with Iron Mountain," he said. "And every customer owns its own credentials with Iron Mountain. We are working with our customers to suck their data from Iron Mountain and move them to another cloud supplier. For them, it's just like buying a new hard drive."

Iron Mountain has been very good about talking to its customers about its plan to shut down some of its services, Rodriguez said. "In reality, it's hard to compete with Amazon, Microsoft, and Google," he said. "They are formidable opponents."

Rodriguez said he is sad to see Iron Mountain exit the public cloud storage market.

"To their credit, they're exiting because they don't feel they can deliver the level of service needed at a cost customers can afford," he said. "But there are many entities in this business who are in a great position to manage the front end of cloud storage without owning the storage itself. The big play is to add account management, including encryption, key escrow, billing support, SLAs, and portability. There is plenty of room for big companies like IBM and Hewlett-Packard to step in and deliver these services."