How to become a cloud storage services provider

Find out what steps to take to become a cloud storage services provider, including making decisions around business scope and infrastructure, whether via a turnkey system or a build-your-own approach.

In a recent article for SearchStorage.com, Jerome Wendt lists five questions for end users to ask when selecting

a cloud storage services provider. As more data begins to move to the cloud, the channel must also closely consider its options. There are two basic options when it comes to cloud storage for the storage channel: becoming a provider or reselling a provider's services. In the first of a two-part series on the topic, we'll examine the steps to take to become a cloud storage services provider.

The first step is to decide whether your organization will provide a complete cloud storage services solution. This is an issue of size and focus. Don't buy into the conventional wisdom that only a few huge providers will be able to succeed in this space. Remember that people have been saying for at least a few years that VARs increasingly won't be able to make money on hardware and software, yet sharp, regional storage resellers continue to prosper, and it will be the same for cloud storage services providers.

A small regional cloud storage services provider may have some advantages over a large provider, because of the local service advantage. Many large cloud storage providers cite customer service as their key differentiator. What better form of customer service is there than when it's locally based? While cloud storage services are inherently remote and therefore not tied to a location, a local presence and face-to-face contact still helps to build trusted relationships with customers -- especially when that customer is trusting you to handle an important part of its business operations.

The second part is a matter of focus: Will offering this service distract you from your main course of business? Even if you aspire to someday provide only cloud services, you have to make sure you keep the rent paid while you grow that new business. Gone are the days where venture capitalists would dump tons of cash into an unproven startup. If the cloud storage services business can be built without the distraction of or, even better, complementary to the core business, that's ideal.

With the decision about focus and size out of the way, the next decision to make is what storage infrastructure to deploy. As we wrote in our article "Become the Cloud," there are many options available to help you roll out your own service, for instance, turnkey offerings from EMC, Cleversafe and now Data Direct Networks. These solutions have the cloud storage software and cloud-storage-friendly architecture built into them. The turnkey nature may get you up and running faster, and it may deliver some "wow" factor for clients considering your service. You can basically say, "We may be small, but we're backed by Vendor X."

Channel Spin analysis
Advice for end users and solution providers

Rather than a turnkey solution, you could instead opt for a company offering just the hardware or the software. On the software side, companies like Bycast, Mezeo and ParaScale provide the software components of the cloud infrastructure, and you'd need to add your own selection of servers and storage. Alternatively, Permabit and now NetApp offer versions of their storage hardware optimized for cloud storage services providers. With this kind of approach, you'd need to add the software to be able to perform actions like data movement and billing.

Of course, these questions just focus on the infrastructure. You'll also need to consider what types of storage services to provide; backup, archive, primary storage or something else like file sharing or collaboration. Again, there are third-party providers that can help you to deliver any of those capabilities without writing the code yourself.

Note: If you're going to be in New York on Sept. 23, I'll be speaking at the SearchStorageChannel.com dinner seminar and will go into more detail on this topic, giving you ideas on how to make money on the cloud.

Here is Jerome Wendt's story on choosing a cloud storage services provider:

Archiving data to cloud storage: How to choose the right cloud storage provider

Today's tough economy is forcing many enterprise data storage administrators to re-evaluate their storage processes and identify more cost-effective approaches to data storage. Archiving data to value tiers of storage, such as storage clouds, is now being viewed as a desirable alternative to traditional storage systems. But before storage professionals begin archiving data to the cloud, here are the five questions they need to ask to ensure that their choice of a cloud storage provider will meet their business needs.

1. Are you doing a green field cloud storage implementation or migrating data to the storage cloud?

Most cloud storage offerings (public cloud or private cloud) are based on object-oriented storage, meaning that each file stored to the cloud is first run through a hash algorithm, given a unique identifier and then stored as an object. This is less of an issue when storing data to cloud storage for the first time (green field) because archival data doesn't have to be migrated.

Read the rest of Jerome's story about choosing a cloud storage services provider.

About the author

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the United States, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, George was chief technology officer at one of the nation's largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.
 

This was first published in September 2009

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