GlassHouse Technologies: At Your (IT Infrastructure) Service

GlassHouse Technologies just held its debut analyst day and clearly communicated what it does and where it is going to the analysts in attendance. Looking more deeply at GlassHouse reveals its response to the greater transformational trends in IT infrastructure that impact virtually all businesses.

David Hill

October 17, 2009

6 Min Read
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GlassHouse Technologies just held its debut analyst day and clearly communicated what it does and where it is going to the analysts in attendance. Looking more deeply at GlassHouse reveals its response to the greater transformational trends in IT infrastructure that impact virtually all businesses.

GlassHouse Technologies is a provider of datacenter-focused IT infrastructure consulting services. The company has expanded rapidly from its initial efforts in storage and data protection to a much broader perspective that includes data center consolidations, virtualization, security, and managed services. From its founding in 2001, GlassHouse has already grown to approximately $100 million in annual revenue and claims a client base of over 1,000 customers, which includes 50% of the Fortune 100.

IT infrastructures are in a state of constant, challenging transition.How to make the appropriate changes while ensuring that service levelagreements and financial objectives are met is not easy. Where, when,and how to virtualize, to use cloud computing, and to provide thenecessary levels of security and data protection require a lot ofdomain-expertise that enterprises typically do not have in depth. Forthat domain expertise they must turn to service providers.
GlassHouse has positioned itself to take advantage of the ongoing transformational IT trends, including the ruthless and relentless cost pressures upon IT organizations in general, and their data centers in particular. These demands cannot be solved by cost cuts alone, but instead require a new approach, not one that simply changes how well the old game was played. The long-talked about, but never realized, "utility" computing model now has to become a reality. Server virtualization and cloud computing are among the code words that are part of the transformation, but alone they are only part of the picture.
Many IT organizations need help taking the individual steps that will lead to a transformation. GlassHouse seems to be in the right place at the right time with the appropriate services. GlassHouse appears to face challenges from both boutique service providers who offer some of what they do, or from the very large well-known service providers that provide a broad range of services. Upon further reflection that may not be the case. Service provider IT boutiques may do very well in offering one or even a few of the services that GlassHouse provides, such as for backup and restore, but they typically do not have the scale, geographic coverage, or partnership relationships of GlassHouse. The well-known Goliath service providers' overwhelmingly focus on other aspects of services, such as project-oriented application development, so they do not compete closely with GlassHouse.

How any service provider goes about delivering its services is critically important so methodology is a key issue. Consistent methodology is required to deliver quality service each and every time. GlassHouse's Transom methodology extends beyond just written (albeit electronic) policies to the software tools that are used to make processes actionable. This proprietary approach is designed to give GlassHouse a competitive advantage by focusing on speed and value-added results
How is it possible that GlassHouse can deliver truly differentiated or innovative offerings when every service provider will essentially say that they do the same thing? The company's growth has been both organic and has also been facilitated through a number of targeted acquisitions that have resulted in key intellectual property, including software. In addition, GlassHouse works with selected third party software tool providers.

GlassHouse focuses on a number of specific service areas:

  • Cloud computing: GlassHouse views cloud computing as the convergence of virtualization, the utility computing model and distributed computing. The company offers services to help customers monitor and meter their cloud environments both internally and externally.

  • Virtual environments: GlassHouse provides services that increase the penetration of virtual infrastructure deployments. The company uses an ITIL/ITSM-aligned service provider model framework, as well as development of policies and processes necessary to successfully achieve virtual infrastructure goals.

  • Security services: Security services are a nascent practice area for GlassHouse, which recognizes that it has entered an overcrowded security field. The company believes, however, that it can leverage its existing intellectual property and take advantage of the fact that security is not an island in and of itself. As a result, GlasHouse's security offerings draw upon cross-domain expertise in data protection, servers and storage, which many of its competitors lack.

  • Data center services: GlassHouse provides migration services, which include a close examination of application importance and complexity. The goal is to ensure that future state data center targets are met, including green initiatives to help companies control their carbon footprints.

  • Operational support services: GlassHouse provides both managed IT services and customer support services. Managed services means that the customer engages in selective out tasking to GlassHouse, such as giving the company responsibility for backup administration. Customer support services focus on always-available call management through a GlassHouse service operations center in Cary, NC.

  • Storage services: Storage services are one of the original core expertise service areas for GlassHouse, with a focus on storage tiering, storage utilization, storage efficiency and storage demand management.

  • Recovery services: This is another of the original and core strengths of GlassHouse with a focus on improving enterprise backup and recovery infrastructure via three key initiatives: simplification, consolidation, and deduplication.

Glasshouse also derives power through its partnerships. A number of GlassHouse partners were present at the analyst day, notably Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, and Unisys. Each described how well it was working with GlassHouse Technologies. That is an impressive list of partners especially since HP with EDS and IBM's Global Services are practically household names, and Dell just announced its acquisition of Perot Systems.Three key points to take away from these partnerships are:
1) GlassHouse provides services that are not typically provided by its partners' own service organizations, otherwise customers would be under pressure to go in-house for those services.
2) These partners trust GlassHouse with their customers, otherwise they wouldn't risk the chance that the company might involve another hardware vendor and take business away from them.
3) Customers have to feel comfortable about GlassHouse's independence from hardware and software decisions, even when a particular hardware vendor brings them in the door. In fact, GlassHouse's ability to succeed among both vendor partners and end customers in both dimensions of independence is not only one of the company's core principles, but also seems to be a key to GlassHouse's success.

GlassHouse's position as an independent supplier of IT infrastructure services to help enterprises meet their IT infrastructure change requirements sets it apart. While others may try to broaden their service horizons in order to compete with GlassHouse, they first have to try to emulate the intellectual property, including software, which GlassHouse has integrated into its services portfolio. That intellectual property enables the company to help customers identify the economic benefits of using IT services and to also differentiate the value and benefits of its own service offerings. Overall, I believe that GlassHouse Technologies is an IT  services provider that both potential customers and competitors should follow closely.

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