IBM and Verizon look to draw large enterprises to cloud data backup

A new joint service offering aimed at financial services customers combines Verizon's MPLS network in the New York area with IBM's cloud data backup based on the Arsenal Digital acquisition.

IBM Corp. and Verizon Business are looking to draw large enterprises to cloud data backup by combining Verizon's virtual private network (VPN) services with IBM's cloud data backup client software. The two companies claim that using Verizon's VPN rather than the public Internet to transport backup data will ease concerns about the security and performance of cloud data storage at the high end.

The cloud data backup service, which has been piloted so far by a handful of joint Verizon and IBM customers, will initially become available this week in the New York metro area to IBM and Verizon customers. Organizations can sign up for the service through either vendor, and it doesn't require any network redesign or the purchase of new network circuits from Verizon.

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Verizon claims its MPLS-based VPNs can offer "up to ten times the capacity of traditional Internet-based backup and recovery," according to the companies' joint press release. Verizon's Private IP service also includes network management features such as QoS routing and traffic monitoring, and walls off customers' traffic from the rest of the network for security.

IBM's cloud data backup is based on technology acquired when it bought Arsenal Digital in 2007.

"Internet-based backup services have throughput limitations, and the lack of dedicated throughput on the Internet doesn't appeal to large data centers," said Warren Sirota, strategy and program development executive for IBM Global Technology Services. "In some instances, it has taken over 40 days over the Internet to achieve the first full backup of a single server, and the problem grows with large data stores. So security and reliable, fast throughput remove the significant barriers to adoption [of cloud data backup in the enterprise]."

The new service will let customers monitor backup network traffic through a Verizon Web portal. Customers will be charged on a monthly per-gigabyte basis only for successful backups (according to IBM's software's backup reporting error codes). Users requiring long retention periods for regulatory compliance will have the option of sending backups to offline tape storage after a certain time period. List pricing for the service is not being publicly disclosed.

The two companies claim that the new service will support file servers from 5 TB to 150 TB in size, as well as data backups of transactional databases. More cities may be added to the network later this year, and Sirota said there has also been interest in the service in the retail and life sciences markets. He declined to specify how many early adopters there are, but said the number so far is fewer than 10.

Large enterprise shops have so far been mostly wary of cloud storage services, particularly for mission-critical applications and data. IBM and Verizon say they are addressing two of the top objections to such services, security and bandwidth, but Taneja Group analyst Jeff Boles points out that there are other hurdles.

In Boles' view, large enterprises might find this offering a better alternative to secondary tape copies of data for disaster recovery, but even with a faster network, sending data over any distance introduces at least some latency. That makes it unlikely that performance-intensive shops would use it for operational restores. "It will be lower latency than the Internet, and potentially even traditional frame or point-to-point connections using a non-label switching provider network (the dual security and performance merits of MPLS), but it will still not deliver onsite low latency for recovery scenarios," Boles wrote in an email to SearchDataBackup.

"In a way, I think this is sort of experimental at this point," added Amy DeCarlo, Current Analysis principal analyst for security and data center services. "While I'm sure most enterprises are using cloud computing for some aspect of IT service delivery today, like CRM or messaging, it's still early for most big enterprises to be [embracing cloud data storage] for mission-critical enterprise applications."

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