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9/21/2005
02:28 PM
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MCI Launches Storage On-Demand Service

MCI's new Utility Storage Service is intended for customers whose capacity needs fluctuate or who want to consolidate storage across multiple platforms.

MCI is taking the wraps off a storage on-demand service it developed for internal purposes and making it available as a managed service to enterprise customers.

MCI said its Utility Storage Service can quickly provision storage area network (SAN) resources, and is well suited for customers whose capacity needs fluctuate or who want to consolidate storage across multiple platforms. The service provider cited Gartner projections that 70 percent of all storage procurement will go to this sort of utility model by 2008.

"Many customers are in between where they need to be--they need more than direct attached storage gives them, but their requirements may not be enough for networked storage," said Rick Dyer, director of product management for MCI hosting services. Customers can also run into issues where they're building 200-gigabyte arrays--if they need more capacity, their racks or data centers can only accommodate so much overage. Then there's the testing and maintenance to manage. "Our arrays don't have any of those issues on the backend," Dyer explained.

MCI is using Fibre Channel SANs as the platform for its service, which in turn will use dual host bus adapters (HBAs) for connecting individual or clustered servers to MCI's Fibre Channel fabric. Customers can add and pay for additional storage space on the fly as need arises.

MCI said customers of all sizes can use the service, which can be managed and monitored through a web interface that lets customers view attached servers, track volumes and monitor usage. They will also get alerts when capacity reaches a pre-configured threshold, like 90 percent of capacity, according to Dyer. The vendor is using software from 3Par and AppIQ Inc. to handle functions like SAN discovery; path, performance and event management; file-system level storage resource management. "Customers can view all that in html or download it via XML or Excel for capacity planning and trend analysis," Dyer added.

Minimum capacity commitment for the service is 50 gigabytes; monthly service fees are volume dependent, but range from $3.50 to $12 per Gbyte. Server licensing fees may also apply and customers need to be able to connect to MCI hosting facilities in San Jose, Calif., or Beltsville, Md.

MCI has been using the service internally for about 18 months in a dedicated environment, but decided to deploy it in a shared fashion as part of its managed services portfolio.

The carrier, wracked by accounting and legal problems during the last three years, is in the process of being acquired by Verizon. But potential customers shouldn't be put off by that, according to Jeffrey M. Kaplan, managing director of Thinkstrategies Inc., a consultancy in Wellesley, Mass. He pointed to recent acquisitions made by MCI in the managed services space--NetSec Inc. in January and Totality Corp. in August. "MCI got clearance from Verizon and encouragement to aggressively pursue these acquisitions for its managed service business," Kaplan said.

The storage on-demand service will appeal to large and small enterprises either looking to augment internal capabilities or as an outsourcing option for small businesses struggling to manage their storage resources, Kaplan said.

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