Recently I wrote about differences in the exponential growth rates of computing and networking and promised to say more about how these differences cause substantial shifts in the technology landscape. Managed storage is one example. The relevant doubling rates (from that earlier post) are:
The increase in storage capacity per dollar has been phenomenal and is one of the reasons that Google can offer Gbytes of free storage for email and that Amazon can offer their Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) at extremely low rates.
But it's also caused headaches for IT directors, as installed equipment becomes obsolete long before it's fully depreciated, and employees and department heads grip about inflated internal billing rates for storage. Pity the IT staffer who sends a broadcast message justifying corporate email storage limits because "it costs the company X cents per megabyte per month." I've seen such messages, and the employee ridicule they engender.
This sounds like a perfect opportunity for a managed service — provide an interface that looks a storage area network or network attached storage, using multiple (for reliability and arbitrage) Internet-based storage services to provide the actual storage. But now differential growth rates become a factor.
But the real problem is the cost of access connectivity. If you're selling managed services to IT departments, you need to provide services at their premises. Local connectivity is not fast, cheap or reliable, and the pace at which it improves is glacial in comparison with storage or Internet transit.
Has this prevented the emergence of managed storage solutions? Of course not. But most existing solutions focus on remotely managing equipment that's physically on the enterprise premises.
Is there opportunity for network-based managed services. Also, yes. But you will need considerable focus on local connectivity, both for the numbers you use in your business plan and for the specifics of how you implement the service. Some thoughts: interface your managed service via a remotely managed on-premise box that includes caching? use a dedicated access link to guarantee QoS? ???
In any event, three years from now, you can count of disk storage being ~8X more affordable, Internet transit being perhaps 4x more affordable, but local connectivity only 2x or 2.5x. Don't give up your great business idea, but plan accordingly.