Microsoft to Play with the Big Dogs in Storage

Storagemanagement in the enterprise is uncharted territory for Microsoft, creating a problemfor the software giant in its quest to become a player in the high end of themarket. To tap the expertise of a couple of companies whose core competenciesare in the enterprise storage, Microsoft launched the Trusted Solutions Program(TSP). With the aid of Hitachi Data Systems and McData, the program is designedto deliver high availability, enhanced scalability, and reduced total cost forusers of Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server Applications via Windows 2000Advanced Server. Also, there is the high-end perception: When you're trying toplay with the big dogs, it's nice to have some bite.

"Thisis all about instilling confidence," says Dave Roush, director ofavailability and benchmarking services at Microsoft. "It's about theenterprise guys looking to Microsoft's leadership to take advantage of oureconomic model, and about Microsoft joining with two partners that can ensurewe present the best practices in systems management."

The TSPprogram is geared for greater productivity through server and storageconsolidation: In Microsoft's case it applies to e-mail, messaging, anddatabases as mission-critical applications. Certainly the need exists for sucha program with the explosion of e-mail in the enterprise, but it brings up aquestion that applies to a lot of multicompany ventures launched these days.

Just howsuccessful can such a multicompany program be when it comes to service?

Dave Hill,research director for storage and storage management at Aberdeen Group, seesthe partnership as a win-win-win position for the three participants. It willwork fine, as long as it's in Microsoft ['s interest] to work.

TSP hasbeen benchmarked at a minimum of 5,000 Microsoft Exchange e-mail users withRAID 5 and a 280-GB backup capacity per hour minimum for SQL Server. TSP linksWindows 2000 Advanced Server clusters with Hitachi's Freedom Storage Lightning9900 subsystem and McData's ED-5000 enterprise-class Director. The scaleableservice can be accessed by end users today.

"Wherewe really need to help is with very large applications," says ChrisHenderson, vice president for high availability at Hitachi. "An example Ican give you is a large insurer with 500,000 mail users looking to upgrade to800,000. That's the kind of thing that can be a manageability nightmare."But we've been able to assimilate the technology that can allow us to beable to go from 500 users per server to 5,000. We've been doing seriousbenchmarking on this since May. We know we have a real winner here."

Beta testsindicate that TSP implementation teams, ranging from two to six techniciansdepending upon need, can deliver solid configuration in two to eight months --again depending on the scope of the configuration.

"Onevery big values the program creates in the B2B (business-to-business)environment is the proper configuration of servers," Henderson says."One of the major availability problems surrounding Microsoft servers isthey simply haven't been configured properly."

Jeff Vogel,vice president for solutions and integration services at McData, sees thepotential popularity of such a program as boundless.

"Whenyou look at data across the enterprise, you see 60 to 70 percent of datautilizing NT platforms," Vogel says. "When you consider there are 400million people using e-mail today, you can bet plenty of customers are lookingto grab processing solutions and support."

"Thinkabout how much of your company's life is tied up inside of Exchange,"Henderson says. "Customers are not just thinking about expanding storagetoday. They're thinking 12 months down the road. They have to pay moreattention to quality products and services."

Down theroad is where this program will be properly judged, Hill says. "On thesurface, it's a good thing when different sets of companies combine to provideservices they can't provide individually," he says. "Exchange,Outlook, and everything surrounding those applications are growingexponentially everywhere, so it's certainly advantageous for Microsoft to takeadvantage of Hitachi's and McData's storage position in the enterprise space --and for them to take advantage of Microsoft's name and enormous customerbase."

WhileHitachi and McData are old hands at service at the enterprise level, it's a newballgame for Microsoft. Because Microsoft has so many irons in the fire, Hillsays it's most likely incumbent upon the other two partners to make it workwith the blessings of Microsoft.

"Ifthey can make it work with limited manpower, software, and development fromMicrosoft, that's great. If Microsoft must provide more that that, it may nothave a long-term interest in making the program succeed. Those are the risksyou take when you sign on for these things."


Microsoft Corp.,Redmond, Wash.,

Hitachi DataSystems Corp., Santa Clara, Calif.,

McData Corp.,Broomfield, Colo.,

Aberdeen GroupInc., Boston,

Must Read Articles