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SSPs offer a new way to manage your storage needs

This is part one of the xSP Insider's focus on Storage Service Providers (SSPs). This edition provides an overview of the SSP industry and some useful resources on the topic.

Outsourcing storage is a relatively new practice. The storage service provider (SSP) model was born of the pre-millennium dot-com boom of 1999, and was based on the idea that exponential growth of corporate data and a shrinking number of IT professionals trained to manage growing storage needs would drive corporate America to look for new ways to meet their data storage requirements. Enter the SSPs. (Looking for more detailed definition of SSP? See the term defined below.)

SSPs come in two basic flavors. The first has storage devices located on-site at the customer's location, but owned and managed by the SSP. The second model is based on remote access, where the storage is located off-site at an Internet Data Center. In both cases the SSP manages and maintains the customer's storage.

Customers looking to subscribe to SSP services should look for, among other things, clearly written, robust service level agreements (SLAs) that have explicit remedy language and reference accounts; a comprehensive set of services; the ability to manage primary disk on or off-site; and prices around $25-45 per gigabyte for back-up and network-attached storage (NAS) and $65 per gigabyte for primary disk. This is according to William Hurley, program manager for the Boston-based Yankee Group.

Hurley

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said since price is the first and last criterion a customer will use to measure a SSP, the rest of the factors become even more important. "Price is actually the most negotiable point on the list, where the others are not," he said.

Target customers for SSPs were originally big companies, most of which are not comfortable with letting a third party handle its mission-critical data. This caused the SSP industry to set its sights on the burgeoning field of Internet start-ups, most of which lacked the capital to buy their own enterprise storage systems, but had a need for huge amounts of storage capacity. However, the implosion of the dot-com landscape in recent months has taken its toll. SSPs that put all their eggs in the dot-com basket have suffered serious cash flow problems.

Some companies like StorageNetworks Inc., Waltham, Mass., are evolving their business models to address new markets and customers. StorageNetworks has developed a new service line called STORfusion, a platform of storage software, monitoring and management for telecommunication companies and Internet service providers that lets the ISPs and telcos offer storage services to their customers with StorageNetworks monitoring the storage on the back end.

The players in the SSP market include StorageNetworks, StorageWay Inc., ManagedStorage International Inc., Storability and Storage Access Inc.

Defining Storage Service Providers (SSPs)
Source: WhatIs.com, a TechTarget site

On the Internet, a storage service provider (SSP) is a company that provides computer storage space and related management to other companies. In addition to the storage itself, SSPs typically offer periodic backup and archiving and some offer the ability to consolidate data from multiple company locations so that all locations can share the data effectively. Customers may be billed a monthly rate and for each managed terabyte of storage. Two leading SSP companies are StorageNetworks and Managed Storage International.

Some companies specialize in providing limited storage service, such as periodic remote backup, to individual computer users and small businesses. An example is @Backup.

Also see two related terms, application service provider and management service provider.

More information and resources on SSPs:


This was first published in June 2001

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