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With the FCC's long-awaited approval of AT&T's merger with BellSouth finally in place, the companies face the formidable task of converging their customers, products, and services -- including storage ones. (See FCC Welcomes 'Ma Bell' Back.)

But the largest telecom merger in U.S. history, a deal valued at about $85 billion, may not produce much change in storage services -- at least not for awhile. "We're in the process of integrating our product portfolios now that the merger has closed. But it's too soon to talk about specific products or services in detail," states AT&T spokesman Brad Mays.

The integration may be the easy part. A tougher task will be to identify the market for managed storage services -- a problem the merger won't help to solve.

Managed storage services of various kinds just haven't done well for telecom service providers. In September 2006, consultancy Thinkstrategies and several CMP publications revealed that of 320 respondents polled, 58 percent are not considering using any managed storage services; 16 percent were considering them; 6 percent plan to use them; and 20 percent are actively using them.

These results are roughly equivalent to what Thinkstrategies found in a similar survey in 2003. "Although this may simply indicate that trade press coverage does not equate with market acceptance, it also shows that MSPs [managed service providers] in these segments still have work to do when it comes to educating customers about the value of their services," wrote Thinkstrategies managing director Jeff Kaplan in his summary.

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