StorageTek has started a joint consulting service with Deloitte for companies trying to comply with the new data storage regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley.

The two will offer the service through a new Intelligent Archiving and Compliance Assessment (IACA) programme. It is an expanded version of StorageTek's existing Business Value Assessment service, and will be available to US and Canadian customers by the end of the year.

IACA comes in three levels - discovery, architecture review and optimisation - each coming with customer recommendations for better managing their storage environments and complying with both privacy and government requirements.

"Deloitte is the market leader in compliance," said Scott Shippee, StorageTek director of professional services. "We're merging their expertise with our expertise in storage infrastructure." The deal between the two companies is non-exclusive and the initial contract runs for 26 months. There will be a single integrated consulting team made up of a total of 50 staff drawn from both Deloitte and StorageTek.

The partnership between Deloitte and StorageTek is the first of its kind in the market, according to Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner with the Data Mobility Group, but she expects competitors to set up similar deals shortly.

"This deal allows StorageTek to get in and talk to people they've not been able to before," McAdam said. She pointed out that many company executives tasked with compliance issues operate outside the data centres where StorageTek typically does business. The storage company may well see some "hardware drag" with the service, since companiesmay look to re-architect their archive systems as part of complying with regulations and corporations may well have money earmarked for compliance issues to facilitate such purchases, McAdam added.

Lee Dittmar, leader of Deloitte Consulting's enterprise governance practice, discussed the new service. "Storage management has been highly reactive," he said. "We don't have any clients telling us, 'I've got my arms around it'. It's mostly about people building bigger basements and throwing more stuff in them. I couldn't give you one company that's really doing it right. It's going to be a very large business."

There are many issues to deal with in terms of how best to manage the entire process of data creation through to its destruction or permanent retention and how to ensure all the stages comply with regulations, according to Dittmar. "It's a very complicated problem and very pervasive," he said. "One of our clients said their storage strategy was 'Iron Mountain'," Dittmar said. "I asked, 'How do you decide what to ship there and when?' They answered, 'When we run out of room, we ship it to Iron Mountain'."

The joint Deloitte/StorageTek service will be modeled in tiers, with several price points -$500,000 to $750,000, $1 million to $1.5 million and $1.5 million-plus deals - according to StorageTek's Shippee.