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Seagate's i365 aims 'Project Cloudburst' at VARs for SMB cloud backup

Seagate's i365 services company is preparing a "disk-to-cloud-to-cloud" backup service for SMBs that it will offer through local VARs and resellers; i365 will supply backup appliance to VARs and the replicate data to its own cloud as a safety net.

Seagate Technology LLC's i365 services company is preparing a channel partner program to provide small VARs and service providers with a cloud backup service using its EVault backup appliance replicating back to i365's own cloud.

I365's code name for the service is "Project Cloudburst," and i365 General Manager Terry Cunningham calls it a "disk-to-cloud-to-cloud" model.

"You've heard of disk-to-cloud backup and disk-to-disk-to-cloud backup," he said. "What you haven't heard of is disk-to-cloud-to-cloud. First, a VAR can be local to a user so recover time can be short. Then we back up the VAR."

Project Cloudburst is an alternative to the model adopted by software vendors such as Asigra, which sell backup software that partners can build a service around. In i365's case, it will sell a backup appliance with software to the VAR and then let the VAR replicate back to i365's data center with EVault Offsite Replication. Cunningham says i365 will take advantage of the VAR's ability to reach small companies while the VARs can fall back on the Seagate/i365 brand to overcome customer reluctance to store their important data with a local VAR.

"We sell the software and hardware to the VAR, and then we back up the VAR's appliance," he said. "So the VAR has a big company like Seagate behind it. Lots of people do disk-to-cloud, but then you're depending on the local VAR. What happens if that VAR goes out of business, or something happens to the data?"

Cunningham said customers can also choose to buy an appliance to have on-site and then send data from there to the VAR. "We're inserting the VAR as a hoster of the backup service," he said. "If the VAR's data center goes down, either the end user calls the VAR or the VAR calls us and says, 'Help.' We know what to do, and say, 'Do you want to trickle it? Or, if you have a lot of data, we'll prep a disk and send it out to you.'"

The program is set to go live in October, but Cunningham said i365 has 12 partners running pilot programs now. He says i365 will eventually sell software only to VARs, but it will be easier initially to bundle it on commodity hardware. The i365 Cloud Storage services will continue, but Cunningham said there is no channel conflict because the i365 Cloud customers are larger companies than Project Cloudburst is aimed at. "There is no channel conflict yet," he said. "Five years from now there might be, and we'll deal with it then. But we could never get to these [smaller] customers; there's no way we could spend enough money marketing to these customers."

IDC analyst Laura DuBois said i365's model is interesting with advantages for i365 and VARs, but unproven.

"Other folks target resellers. What's different about this is Seagate is adding a guarantee that it's the backup to the VAR," she said. "That does run counter to the Asigra model of only supplying software."

DuBois said i365 will have to find the right VARs to make it work. "The challenge is finding VARs that have the discipline to run the service and VARs that are willing to put out the cash to make the investment in a data center or server room," she said. "And [Seagate] is risking its brand if the service doesn't work out for a particular VAR. But on the upside, it enables the VAR to offer a service. It's a certified i365-backed device. It makes the account sticker with the VAR and gives them a true backup plan for the backups."

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