Meeting The MSP/CSP Storage Challenge

As customers push for more storage and hosting solutions, managed and cloud service providers are turning to a software-defined approach to purchasing resources. Here's how it works.

George Crump

March 28, 2013

3 Min Read
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Managed service providers (MSPs) and cloud service providers (CSPs) face a formidable task: to provide storage and backup services that are more efficient and more affordable than organizations can accomplish internally. That challenge puts MSPs on the leading edge when it comes to storage infrastructure and backup services design.

The Online Backup Storage Challenge

For most companies, online backup is the initial entry path to the cloud. It's also an excellent way for a legacy storage reseller to become a MSP. The challenge: traditional, off-the-shelf backup software and hardware is not well suited for a business model that's based on adding customers incrementally.

The good news, from a software perspective, is that there are plenty of MSP-focused backup applications to consider -- as the number of MSPs grows, so does the number of backup solutions. The problem, however, is that the online backup provider subscriber base is evolving from consumers to businesses, and MSP-specific backup products don't have the robust features those businesses require.

[ Data backup is just the beginning. Here are some more ways the cloud can benefit virtual infrastructures: 3 Ways The Cloud Can Complement Virtualization. ]

As discussed in this webinar, many MSPs are looking to improve and replace their current offerings. Customers are pushing MSPs to meet new business demands caused by virtualization and increased use of databases in the SMB market.

The Primary Storage Challenge

Some data centers are willing to move beyond the cloud for secondary data and are leveraging CSPs to host their applications. Plenty of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions are available as well. These applications are hosted by MSPs/CSPs.

The primary storage challenge is a big one for CSPs. They don't have the latency of the Internet to let them get away with "cheap and deep" storage, as backup providers might -- all the processing and related storage I/O happens locally. They need high-performance storage, but they need to buy it in a way that matches their business model -- incrementally, adding storage capacity and performance as they add customers.

As discussed in this article, CSPs can't afford to buy big storage up front and hope they can add customers fast enough to justify the purchase, so this incremental approach is ideal. Software-defined storage allows CSPs to converge their compute and storage infrastructure for a more natural upgrade. As they add customers, they add compute -- if they can place storage and data services inside the same nodes, their environment will scale automatically.

Why Does This Matter To Users?

There are two key reasons this software-defined storage approach important for businesses that might leverage an MSP/CSP. First, customers should understand how their MSP/CSP supports its service. Can it actually execute on its service level agreements (SLAs)? After all, if something goes wrong, an SLA might give you grounds for a lawsuit, but it won't get your data back or your application running.

Second, MSP/CSPs are going to be the storage proving ground going forward. They are the companies that will stretch computing and storage to its limits. We will learn a lot of solid best practices from these organizations. Knowing how to push the envelope will help your organization meet its internal compute and storage challenges.

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