Back-up plan

Telcos can play a pivotal role in offering data storage services for enterprises
Wael Kabanny says data storage as a service has great potential for telcos.
Wael Kabanny says data storage as a service has great potential for telcos.


Business survival necessitates planning for every type of business disruption, be it hardware failures, natural disasters or cyber attacks. And with advances in cloud-based services and storage technology, enterprises expect total security of their data.

Traditionally a domain of data storage and security service providers, telecom operators and household names such as Amazon are now offering data storage and disaster management services for enterprises.

While there is a huge opportunity for operators in providing data storage services, it is not only about putting in place the right strategies and technologies. There is also the need for telcos to build trust that customer information is well protected.

As Wael Kabanny, managing director of BT, MENA, says: “Data storage as a service has great potential as the growth in the MEA region has increased the amount of data flowing through our networks. With a handful of organisations having the capabilities and funding in order to do their own proper data storage program, telecom operators that offer this as a service can see good business opportunities as companies would like to shift the responsibility and risk to someone else.”

Marc Salingardes, EMC’s cloud service provider alliance director, agrees that operators are well-placed to benefit. “As newly created data volumes continue to double every two years, there are significant opportunities for operators to launch services that would enable companies to efficiently store and manage these large amounts of data that have already reached the ZettaByte range,” he says. “By leveraging the mature data centre virtualisation technologies, operators have all the ingredients to be able to effectively offer data storage and disaster recovery services to enterprise customers at an attractive total cost of ownership.”

Furthermore, he adds that operators have “an edge” in this emerging market as they can build on their existing ICT infrastructures in-house human resources.

Salingardes adds that operators are well-positioned to differentiate their global public cloud services from services offered by over-the-top players. “We saw recently major issues with global public cloud providers services, such as Gmail. We believe that operators and service providers have a great opportunity to differentiate themselves vis-a-vis those global public clouds offered by Google, Amazon, Microsoft.Key differentiators reside in ensuring local and national storage of the data, differentiated SLA for services proposed, and proximity with the customers,” he says.

“Furthermore, user mobility, both corporate and individual, and the ability to access data from multiple devices both within the intranet or over the internet is generating demand for storage-as-a-service solutions.”

Business continuity

An enterprise’s business continuity plan essentially needs to embrace various tactics to mitigate risks including business process failure, regulatory liability, and failures related to customer service. Kabanny says that having a good data storage program, be it in-house or in the cloud with a service provider, adds to greater disaster recovery which is a subset of a business continuity program.

Gary Clark, vice president EMEA, SafeNet, a data protection company focusing on data centres and extension of data in the cloud, says that there is a huge potential for telcos in the future to increase their ARPU levels in providing data storage services. “Because the economies of scale for the end-customer or the benefit of the end-customer is quite huge, there is good opportunity for them going forward.

However, telcos have to establish the trusted infrastructure that people will migrate to take advantage of future revenue streams for them. There is a lot of efficiency for customers as well, and they have to realise the real advantages of using a technology provided by telecom operators,” he says.

However, Kabanny thinks that telecom operators in the MEA region are yet to be sufficiently equipped to setup and offer complete data storage or disaster recovery programs. He also says that many processes and technologies have to be put in place, and in most cases, these require partnerships with niche vendors in the market who specialise on these services. In terms of good data storage and disaster recovery programs to maintain business continuity, Kabanny says that data integrity and availability are the core areas being addressed.

On a similar note, Clark says: “I think telcos are looking at data protection and security companies that can work on a wide range of products as part of their security services.

“Service continuity is a providers’ responsibility. We work with telcos in providing them with both hardware- and software-driven products. Certainly, we see a lot of activities in this region driven by public key infrastructure (PKI) and database encryption products. We also have some new products coming in next year in areas of storage encryption and virtual disk encryption,” he adds.

Clark says that in this new world of virtualisation that is starting to develop, SafeNet’s encryption based products are to provide some of the backbones that telecom operators require to be able to deliver the kind of storage services going forward. “From our point of view, what’s really important for the telcos is to be able to show their customers that they can ‘really’ protect customer information. In order for the telcos in the region to develop their services tuned to those markets, they really need to be able to build that trust and show their customers that they are taking the protection of customer information seriously.

“At SafeNet, we have products around key management, which are hardware-based, allowing a telco’s end-customer to have full confidence of their information not only being protected by the service provider but also the fact that they hold the ‘key’ to track information. Unless it is proved to customers, the development will be slow,” he adds. Some of the customers of SafeNet in the MEA region are Saudi Arabia’s STC, UAE’s Etisalat, and its Saudi subsidiary, Mobily.

Clark says that companies like SafeNet are working with telcos to change their business models. “I think we are moving into a new world and we have to look into a model to supply the products and services that can be sold in a different way. In future, most of our products will be used by some of the large service providers in this region,” he says. “We fundamentally believe that the key is the need to develop in the hardware area ensuring no compromise.

“We recently launched a new storage encryption product for which we have partnered with NetApp, a provider of storage and data management solutions. This collaboration will provide customers with the ability to manage and protect their on-premise, cloud-based and virtualised data storage in a highly secure manner,” he says.

Enterprise advantages

Enterprises can see a number of advantages going forward with telecom operators offering data protection services. As Clark says: “Telcos have the capability to provide the adequate connectivity and availability required to have good data storage services.”

On a more detailed note, Kabanny says: “Enterprises are looking to make their lives simpler. Certainly one of the things that we are doing with some of the large telcos is that we enable them to offer ‘security as a service’ to their customers. From a CAPEX point of view, there are a lot of advantages for enterprises to buy and scale services as the need may be.

“As an enterprise, if I have a telco as a service provider who can give me the trust and provide me the commercial conditions and manage the security, then we are in a compelling condition to move towards that direction,” he adds.

While enterprises are looking at the cloud environment, can they overcome the perils such as service outages and security breaches? To ensure data security for enterprises in the cloud, Kabanny says that operators need to be SAS70 certified and run ISO 27001 as a best practice. “This will provide the basis for security in a cloud environment. And, the next step is to ensure this is coupled with good security technologies,” he says.

Clark says that SafeNet’s focus is around data protection that relates to products such as authentication, database encryption, storage encryption, and high speed network encryption. “SafeNet provides hardware security modules based on storing crypto key for banks globally, which connects the modules to a bank’s SWIFT platform. On the telecoms side, we are also looking to work as being a part of the infrastructure in providing security as a service to telecom operators,” he adds.

In the data storage and disaster recovery service space, Kabanny says that BT partners with storage vendors to provide hardware solutions for data storage programs coupled with its experience as a systems integrator. “From a disaster recovery perspective, BT provides global data centre services which have in-built data recovery services as well as work place recovery which adds to the level of business continuity programs,” he adds.

Market demand

In terms of opportunities in the MEA region, EMC’s Salingardes says that there are “clear indicators” that the market is ready for storage-as a service, backup-aaS and data recovery-aaS offerings from cloud service providers, mostly from SME companies. “We believe this market will start flourishing in 2012 and beyond,” Salingardes says.

“In particular, Backup-aaS with source-based data de-duplication technologies seems to fit very well with host virtualisation technologies such as VMware, and EMC offers a leading solution in this space based on Avamar.

“User mobility, both corporate and individual, and the ability to access data from multiple devices both within the intranet or over the internet is generating demand for Storage-aaS solutions, and EMC offers another leading solution in this space based on Atmos geographically distributed cloud storage,” Salingardes adds.

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