EMC has announced its MozyEnterprise storage-as-a-service offering, which is based on its EMC Fortress delivery platform and provides online backup and data recovery for small and medium business, laptop users, remote and branch offices of enterprises, where it covers desktops and servers. It is not intended for structured, database backup applications though.

EMC bought Berkeley Data Systems for its Mozy online backup technology and service in September, 2007. There is such a general and growing demand for storage-as-a-service, part of the generic software-as-a-service (SaaS) that EMC set up a new SaaS business unit, headed by Roy Sanford. The hardware and software infrastructure platform underlying it is Fortress and the first EMC software offering is online backup.

However Fortress has already been mentioned by EMC in connection with eRoom a collaborative workspace environment, which describes a fortress-like online document store: "eRoom.net offers extraordinary network and server security through the EMC Center ("EMC GSC"). The EMC hosting center is a physical and virtual fortress designed to ensure on-going access and connectivity to your data while providing top-notch security."

An EMC job ad also mentioned Fortress. We may as well envisage a scenario in which all EMC software applications might be delivered over the net as services. Customer's data is stored inside Fortress which is EMC's first step in the emerging cloud computing concept.

EMC describes Fortress as a secure, hardened, multi-tenant, scalable SaaS delivery platform providing customers with centralised billing, management and metering.

MozyEnterprise is positioned as the first EMC Saas application relying on it, implying that there will be others. EMC's SaaS strategy calls for the delivery of additional IT-based SaaS applications built on the EMC Fortress platform over time, in key areas such as 'trusted data services', whatever that means.

Competitors

Zmanda and Seagate's EVault are the obvious competitors. EVault is aimed at the SMB market. Zmanda is based on the open source Amanda backup product and uses Amazon's S3 (Simple Storage Service) storage hosting service as the backup target.

IBM has bought Arsenal Digital for its online backup offering.

Google and Amazon both offer storage hosting and Google has already started offering Microsoft Office-like software services. Storage software as a service could also include basic storage as service. So too does Sun with its Sun Grid offering, which is now coming up to its third birthday. Sun was early into this market.

This gives us several large suppliers: Amazon, EMC, Google, IBM, Seagate, and Sun, as well as several very much smaller suppliers such as Nirvanix. The latter company is positioning its online storage service as a competitor to Amazon's S3 as a web 2.0 storage supplier, one probing a network repository for unstructured and semi-structured content.

EMC doesn't position its MozyEnterprise/Fortress as an S3 competitor. But this is EMC's first toe in the water and unlikely to be its only such initiative.

These suppliers are all offering a utility storage model with EMC, IBM, Seagate and Zmanda offering a backup-focused subset of the same. If this business takes off then they will need vast datacentres to hold their customer data. The idea is that utility storage and storage services are cheaper than roll-your-own equivalents. EMC says it now offers safer, more economical off-site data protection with savings of up to 30 percent over conventional desktops and laptops located anywhere on a network. MozyEnterprise is also price competitive - comparable solutions cost up to 10 times more than Mozy.

The remote storage market

IDC predicts that sales of hosted backup storage services will reach $715 million in 2011, up from $235 million in 2007. Say that's a quintupling of the amount of data stored. What are we looking at?

EMC says Mozy already has 5 petabytes of customer data in its facilities that is backed up from half a million devices. If that increases five-fold it means 25PB of data, a huge, gigantic amount. Suppose, further, that intelligent hand-held devices, such as the iPhone and PDAs, also start using on-line backup. Then there could be an enormous jump in the amount of data stored. One hundred petabytes is not unrealistic in this context. if we look out to 2015.

If EMC is looking out at these numbers, then its looming Hulk and Maui clustered storage infrastructure, designed for storage requirements an order of magnitude or more beyond what is currently commercially available, seem to be intended for this market. Seagate's purchase of EVault becomes much more interesting in revenue potential terms as does IBM's of Arsenal Digital. That latter transaction might also provide an additional context for IBM's XIV acquisition.

The concluding thought here is that Amazon, EMC, Google, IBM, Nirvanix, Seagate and Sun all think the utility storage business model has wings. They are collectively putting millions of dollars into developing infrastructure and buying technology. This is part of Carr's Big Switch idea. It might just pay you to look at the area closely and track its development in detail. Something tells my storage future sensing organ that this is going to be big.