AT&T expands managed storage push

Archiving service lets users offload e-mail retention

AT&T Corp. introduced an e-mail archiving service this week, joining other telecommunications companies that are trying to persuade corporate users to add outsourced and managed storage services to their voice and data contracts.

AT&T said it will use EMC Corp.'s Centera disk array with message-archiving software developed by KVS Inc. to run the new service. The archiving capabilities are aimed at users who want to offload the e-mail retention, documentation and retrieval work mandated by regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and SEC Rule 17a-4.

Rivals such as Verizon Communications, MCI and Qwest Communications International Inc. also are trying to leverage their copper and fiber-optic lines to transport data to managed storage facilities or to help companies extend their storage-area networks (SAN) to off-site disaster recovery data centers.

But at the Storage Networking World conference in Phoenix, several IT managers said they're wary of outsourced storage services after a group of storage service providers quickly foundered and died over the past few years.

Outsourcing functions such as data archiving and SAN management aren't attractive to many large companies because they already have sufficient internal resources to do the work, said Mark Detert, director of data center and automation operations at Visa U.S.A Inc.'s debit processing services unit in Englewood, Colo.

Andre Mendes, chief technology integration officer at the Public Broadcasting Service in Alexandria, Va., said that from what he has seen, managed storage services are not yet "fully baked."

"If it could be guaranteed to have the same availability as a well-architectured [internal] storage network, then we're getting there," he said.

Mendes added that talented storage administrators are easier to find and less expensive to hire than they were four or five years ago. "We're not likely to experience a shortage of personnel anytime soon," he said.

But in December, Tribune Co. in Chicago hired AT&T to extend its disaster recovery architecture and manage its storage infrastructure. "One nice thing with them is they formed really good partnerships with Nortel and Sun," said Darko Dejanovic, chief technology officer at Tribune and its Tribune Publishing Co. subsidiary. "The whole solution worked really well between the three of them."

In an interview prior to Storage Networking World, Dejanovic said he decided to outsource the extension of the media company's SAN to a secondary site three miles from its main data center because doing the work in-house would have been cost-prohibitive. "It's the traditional insurance argument: How much risk do you take as opposed to how much you're willing to invest," he said.

The new architecture provides real-time access to fully mirrored data and applications, Dejanovic said. The Tribune had a backup site prior to signing on with AT&T, but it was smaller and allowed only partial backups.

Doug Chandler, an analyst at research firm IDC, said he doesn't think telecommunications vendors are really filling the gap that was left by failed storage service providers like Storage Networks Inc. and Storability Inc.

"They're supplying the network pipes for some customers who are doing replication over long distances, and some telcos may have some storage-specific services," Chandler said. "But for the most part, they're not managing a lot of storage capacity themselves."

This story, "AT&T expands managed storage push" was originally published by Computerworld.