Data storage growth now a pressing issue for mid-tier manufacturers

Midtier enterprises face many of the same challenges in managing IT resources and data storage that large enterprises do, but typically lack the IT staff with the breadth and depth of skills to address them. The kind of infrastructure monitoring often needed is the sweet spot for Incentra Solutions, a Boulder, Colo.


Midtier enterprises face many of the same challenges in managing IT resources and data storage that large enterprises do, but typically lack the IT staff with the breadth and depth of skills to address them.

The kind of infrastructure monitoring often needed is the sweet spot for Incentra Solutions , a Boulder, Colo.-based reseller of IT hardware and a provider of IT managed services.

“What makes us unique is that we're able to remotely monitor and manage IT infrastructures for our customers,” says Tom Sweeney, chairman and CEO. “We help them optimize the high-end servers, storage devices, and network and security products they've purchased to create higher levels of efficiency in their operations.”

Incentra's roots date from April 2000 when it spun off from StorageTek and started doing business as ManagedStorage International, offering remote data storage and protection services. It changed its name to Incentra in August 2004. Backed by venture capital from the start, Incentra developed its customer base and solutions footprint through a string of six acquisitions, netting 950-percent growth over four years—with organic growth of 30 percent. Such stellar performance earned it a spot on New York-based Deloitte 's 2007 Technology Fast 500 list.

“We're seeing storage growth in companies of all sizes, with more sophisticated storage hardware and storage networks,” says Michael Speyer, senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research . “Storage growth and lack of IT skills to effectively manage the infrastructure present big challenges. This is a growing problem that managed services can clearly address.”

Nik Simpson, storage analyst at Burton Group , a Salt Lake City-based analyst firm, concurs.

“The midtier is driven by the same data-retention and data-growth problems that larger organizations face, but there aren't enough storage administrators to go around,” says Simpson. “Managed storage makes a lot of sense, and it's a much better model than outsourced storage. The idea of taking corporate data offsite and using it through network links isn't nearly as appealing. With managed services you get the best of both worlds: Management is addressed, but the customer retains control of the data.”

It isn't a nontrivial task, Speyer says, due to the high level of engineering expertise required, as well as the sophistication of technology necessary to cost-effectively offer such services. “The only way you can deliver it cost-effectively is to do it remotely via the Internet. Incentra has crafted a solution well suited to midtier companies.”

Remote management is indeed critical. “Automation is key,” says Incentra's Sweeney. “If you're going to do this for thousands of customers, you have to automate it.”

"We optimize the high-end servers, storage devices, and network and security products our customers have purchased to create higher levels of efficiency in their operations."

—Tom Sweeney, chairman
and CEO, Incentra Solutions

Gridworks is the automation technology that provides the backbone for remotely monitoring and managing customer IT infrastructures, a critical piece of technology that came with the spin-off from StorageTek. Incentra also runs a 24/7 operations center staffed with 30 engineers and system administrations to respond to problems. The company boasts 100 field engineers around the country, and Incentra currently manages more than 3000 terabytes of storage, performing more than 250,000 backups and 5,000 trouble tickets monthly.

“Storage volumes are only going to grow,” Sweeney concludes. “We offer a managed solution that our customers couldn't provide on their own.”

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